By Tanner Meadows
Artist: Cloud Nothings
Album: Last Building Burning
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Label: Carpark Records (US), Wichita Recordings (UK/Europe)
Evolving from compressed lo-fi garage rock and distantly electronic, through-the-phone vocals, Cloud Nothings’ most recent release, Last Building Building, is the group’s latest and greatest step toward a rawer, more vigorously unrefined sound. One could argue that isn’t saying much, considering the shortcomings of the band’s preceding record, Life Without Sound, a tuneful, uplifting detour from their usual fervor. Regardless, the reversion back to a looser style and more aggressive sound is a move, for the most part, warmly received.
Grit is the goal of Last Building Burning. Frenetic, in-your-face guitars make a clear statement during “On An Edge,” the albums opening track; melody and harmonics are taking a backseat, wild sound is the intention. At the core of every track is a certain level of harshness. That is not to say this is the most intense, hardcore record in the world. The grime of Cloud Nothings’ sound has to grow from their aforementioned roots. That idea is reflected in this record, especially in the vocals. A vestigial boyishness in Baldi’s voice, as well as the remnant, calmer elements of past projects, mix with a greater aggression to give the record a sort of strained sound. This lends nicely to some of the moodier motifs on the record, such as the third track, “In Shame,” as Baldi belts out, seemingly at the limits of his vocal capacity, “They won’t remember my name / I’ll be alone in my shame.”
An interesting aspect of Last Building Burning is its attempt at capturing and recreating certain elements of live music, drawing inspiration from the band’s own erratic and motionful shows. First and foremost, there is a move away from studio-cleanliness, giving the instruments a kind of jagged edge, and puts a slight distance between the vocalist and the listener.
The live music inspiration is clearest on the sixth track, “Dissolution,” an eleven minute beast of a song that dominates the back half of the album. Discordant guitar carries you over urgent, blasted beats, some of the best drumming on the record, for the first few minutes, until the listener is left hanging on a wire of droning feedback, drifting on that single electric pitch. Tension is built from there, drummer Jayson Gerycz left to build tension seemingly with whatever sporadic beat comes to mind.
Cloud Nothings can only maintain that level of pensiveness for so long before the pace picks up again, and it isn’t till the last minute that the listener is thrown back into a crazed, tumultuous refrain. The long break in momentum to slowly build excitement is a common tool bands use in controlling the energy of their crowd. It gives the fans in the pit a break, and by the time things do start to pick up again, they’re so ready to get back to knocking each other around that even the first note can instigate a considerable release of energy. It makes for a very explosive moment, sonically and physically.