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For a band that resists repeating itself, picking up lessons from a decade prior is the strange route Cloud Nothings took to create their most fully-realized album. Their new record, The Shadow I Remember, marks eleven years of touring, a return to early songwriting practices, and revisiting the studio where they first recorded together. In a way not previously captured, this album expertly combines the group’s pummeling, aggressive approach with singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi’s extraordinary talent for perfect pop. To document this newly realized maturity, the group returned to producer Steve Albini and his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago, where the band famously destroyed its initial reputation as a bedroom solo project with the release of 2012 album Attack on Memory.
Another throwback was Baldi’s return to constant songwriting à la the early solo days, which led to the nearly 30 demos that became the 11 songs on The Shadow I Remember. Instead of sticking to a tried-but-true formula, his songwriting stretched out while digging deeper into his melodic talents. “I felt like I was locked in a character,” Baldi says of becoming a reliable supplier of heavy, hook-filled rock songs. “I felt like I was playing a role and not myself. I really didn’t like that role.” More frequent writing led to the freedom in form heard on The Shadow I Remember. What he can’t do alone is get loud and play noisily, which is exactly what happened when the entire band— bassist TJ Duke, guitarist Chris Brown, and drummer Jayson Gerycz—convened.
The band had more fun in the studio than they’ve had in years, playing in their signature, pulverizing way, while also trying new things. The absurdly catchy “Nothing Without You” includes a first for the band: Macie Stewart of Ohmme contributes guest vocals. Elsewhere, celebrated electronic composer Brett Naucke adds subtle synthesizer parts.
The songs are kept trim, mostly around the three-minute mark, while being gleefully overstuffed. Almost every musical part turns into at least two parts, with guitar and drums opening up and the bass switching gears. “That’s the goal—I want the three-minute song to be an epic,” Baldi says. “That’s the short version of the long-ass jam.”
Lyrically, Baldi delivers an aching exploration of tortured existence, punishing self-doubt, and the familiar pangs of oppressive mystery. “Am I something?” Baldi screams on the song of the same name. “Does anybody living out there really need me?” It’s a heartbreaking admission of existential confusion, delivered hoarsely, with an instantly relatable melody.
“Is this the end/ of the life I've known?” he asks on album opener “Oslo.” “Am I older now/ or am I just another age?” Despite the questioning lyrics, the band plays with more assurance and joy than ever before. The Shadow I Remember announces Cloud Nothings’ second decade and it sounds like a new beginning.
SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN
Since 1996, Sunburned Hand of the Man has been operating as one of the USA's premier underground psych bands and performance art groups. Sunburned has played hundreds of performances in all over North America & Europe and has had the honour of sharing the stage with many of their influences and peers (Sun City Girls, Sonic Youth, Nurse With Wound, Dinosaur Jr, No Neck Blues Band, Vibracathedral Orchestra,The Believers, Circle, Sunn 0))), Michael Hurley, Boredoms, Mission of Burma, Wolf Eyes, Fourtet, Acid Mother's Temple, Comets on Fire, Six Organs of Admittance & Jack Rose).
Sunburned's sound mixes head-melting acid rock, industrial pump, thug hardcore, tweaked electronics & tapes, music concrete, spoken word, live sculpture, film & surrealist theatre. Sunburned thrives in any kind of performance situation, clubs, festivals, galleries, live film scores, and whatever else happens their way.
MOJO Magazine: I still remember the gig, East London, the tramping of plastic glass underfoot, the whispering of the truly scary mad bloke on my right, quietly cursing the band, and out of the speakers, a sound like asthma, bees packed in the chest and ghostly voices that bore no resemblance to the act on stage, this shifting crew of eight, maybe twelve, hairy and bald types named Critter, Chad, Cousin Rich, Phil, Reverend John, and other things, all in a circle, beat out chain-gang rhythms, led by the pulsing bass of aged schoolboy scholar Rob Thomas.
Formed in Massachusetts in 1997 from such defunct outfits as Franklin's Mint, Fisherman's Faggot, Shit Yourself, Faxed Head and Ghetto Breakers, this band who debuted with an album called Shit-Spangled Banner, played abstract psychedelia with roots in Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Cream, Funkadelic and Ash Ra Tempel, but made out in the dark woods by the demon children of John Fahey, abandoned in a car full of tapes.
I remember the stage, the aftermath of some '68 hippie riot - protesters trapped in the dying control centre - and the groove lurching on and on, the band circling constantly, like a ragged drum and bugle corps born of American's two Sawyer families - Mark Twain's ragged-trousered truant leading Texas Chainsaw Massacre's pallid cannibal family up from the rusty iron depths of their stuckboard kill-pit and into the sun: blasts, chimes, clanks, screams, thunks and mental-institution shouting-in-the-dark; a terrifying mystic broadcast on the King Biscuit Flour Hour.
At the end of the gig I met two girls who told me it was the worst band they'd ever seen. And they were laughing, hard. But, you know, in a good way.....
Watching the Mountain Movers' progression over the course of the past decade has truly been a treat. Their earliest beginnings saw the band documenting Dan Greene’s vast catalog of songs, while displaying a rotating cast of New Haven musicians’ unique skills. The band produced three albums and several singles of polished indie rock in this incarnation. However, their fourth album, 2010’s Apple Mountain, saw the band transition to stranger territory; home-recorded and employing an arsenal of miscellaneous instruments, the record bore a folk-psychedelic element not displayed on their previous work. Shortly after Apple Mountain, constant members Greene and Rick Omonte were joined by lead guitarist Kryssi Battalene and drummer Ross Menze to form, what is now, the band's longest running lineup. The band has since produced a series of singles, lathe-cuts, cassettes, 2015’s Death Magic; an album that melded Greene’s song writing with the bands ability to stretch out and improvise. In 2016, they previewed the "Sunday Drive / No Plans" cassingle (recorded at former drummer John Miller’s home studio), giving us - the listener - the first glimpse into the Movers’ newest modes. Two instrumental improvisations clocking in at just under 20 minutes that bring to mind names like Neu! and Ash Ra Tempel, as much as they do any number of American psychedelic acts of the 1960’s. The band's sixth, eponymous album "Mountain Movers" is bookended by two long-form jams with three perfect, crystalline pop songs sandwiched in between, mirroring both aspects of the band & representing the most fully realized recorded representation of the band's live show to date. Links: Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify