Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else
You might have missed it - what with the whole “music universe mirroring world-wide-web through exponential expansion whilst simultaneously fracturing into more and more enclosed gardens” thing - but post-punk has been having a moment.
From these shores alone we’ve had Johnny Foreigner returning to form, Eagulls breaking out of God’s Own Country to tear new holes all the way to the Ed Sullivan Theater with gay abandon, and a veritable bounty of new acts like Girl Band firing all kinds of flares into the air. It’s fitting then that Cloud Nothings have deigned to return now in order to equal, nay, perhaps even top, 2012’s Attack on Memory.
Frontman Dylan Baldi is to be witnessed donning his mismatched socks of noise and pop with equal aplomb once again on Here and Nowhere Else, a choice of artistic undergarments which gives ‘Quieter Today’ and ‘I’m Not Part Of Me’ their force just as much as it did ‘No Sentiment’ and ‘Stay Useless’. The key differentiating and elevating factor this time round though are the imaginative and quietly confident creative and procedural developments of the past two years Baldi & co implement on their latest.
Most pre-eminent is the mix afforded by John Congleton as he more than capably picks up the production reins from Steve Albini. Whilst the most clear success is the simultaneous capture of both heightened clarity and the resounding cathartic energy of Cloud Nothings’ live show, it’s a less discernable element which provides the most food for thought.
As you switch from other records or the radio you might find your ears need to momentarily readjust, faced with the prospect of drums, vocals, bass and guitar being all broadly delivered with equal weight. The democratic mix Congleton affords the band is almost uncomfortable, and it arises from the failed attempt to place a normative emphasis where the production has pointedly removed it. Baldi’s vocals are never lost or drowned but they equally aren’t priotised, being employed more as cog than frontispiece on the likes of ‘Giving Into Seeing’.
Instead, your focus is satisfyingly drawn to absorbing the band in an intensely live-sounding, full and cohesive light and simultaneously to following the course of a particular instrument. It might be TJ Duke’s rollicking basslines on ‘Pattern Walks’ and ‘Just See Fear’ or the cruising triumph of the guitar on ‘I’m Not Part of Me’. Most likely though, the height of this shifted attention’s success will be ‘Psychic Trauma’. Here it’s Jayson Gerycz’s drums which seize the moment, not just dictating the pace but acting as the manic conductor of a hurtling steam engine, frenetically adding to the furnace of tempo-shifts on the album’s most captivating moment.
As the clock steadily blinked down towards Here and Nowhere Else’s release, Baldi was keen to plug the notion in interviews of these songs as insidious, creeping vines, of the record as a fabled “grower”. That this latter cliché has been taken away from its usual trappings of an excuse for dull, complacent song-writing and instead been used to mine a vein of discerning forcefulness not only proves him right, but ensures that - even after this present bubble of post-punk prosperity bursts - the sense of triumph that courses through Cloud Nothings’ latest will resound for many a listen hence.