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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Album Review: Cloudkicker - Let Yourself Be Huge

is Ben Sharp from Columbus, Ohio. By day, he’s just an Average Joe with a normal haircut, an unobnoxious dress sense and a boring day job. By night he’s some kind of music superhero. He writes, records, mixes and masters everything himself, guitars and bass are recorded straight into a laptop and the drums get created using a one-sequencing program, and it’s all offered out for free. Nada. Zip. Zero. Any money he does receive is pumped straight back into making more albums – for instance, the physical products associated with Let Yourself Be Huge were entirely funded by his last release, Beacons. You’re unlikely to find him selling merch or touring any time soon – to him music is just “a thing I do for fun, that helps me unwind and gives me an output for creativity.”

This time around he’s managed two releases at once – this one and the 16-track Loop. Now, Let Yourself Be Huge may sound like something a man might say about his “down-belows”, but it’s more likely to be a metaphor for making sure we realise the potential within each of us. But is the music as inspirational as the album’s premise and the artist’s views? Well, it’s certainly nothing like the music that Sharp’s love of might suggest it to be. This is so quiet it’s almost not there; an ethereal, ghostly whisper of an album.

The tracks are simplistic instrumental pieces that are bold enough to reveal themselves early on. They tend to circulate through a system of rise and fall, usually swelling through the first chord and abating through the second. This engenders them with a sombre, downbeat quality and the soft starts offer the listener a helping hand into each track, goading them into riding along through the process of building layers. Immersive introspection is positively encouraged, yet discovering the right time and place to enjoy this kind of quiet maudlin is more difficult. Like a spoiled child, Let Yourself Be Huge demands your full attention.

“The Word Water”, “One, Many” and “This Isn’t” may be brief, austere, acoustic ditties, but they do show off ’s best side. Moody glimpses of emotions, they allow you to briefly dip your toe in before they teasingly close out. For full immersion you must turn to “It’s Inside Me And I’m Inside It” which, like ’s latest material, oozes into your mind, coiling around and around, piling more and more into the mix until you emerge purged and dizzied by the experience. Then there’s the electro kitsch of “Explore, Be Curious” and the stoner quirks within “You And Yours”. These offer up dark, plodding, rangy beasts, rich in dynamic fuzz, chime and bass and yet, they are ultimately exhausting five-minute yomps around increasingly obvious, repetitious structures.

“Welcome Back”, as the opener, bucks the ornately dour trend and produces a positive, wonderfully festive, ditty. With it’s warm tinkling acoustics and creaking backdrop, it’s the quintessential “coming home” song. Here is where I finally discover my ideal listening spot – at night, whilst waiting in a car for my driver to return. Alone in the darkness, recumbent, relaxed in my own solitude, the title-track, as the only track with vocal, really hits home. The track’s damaged quality gets me fondly reminiscing on 80s synthpop bands again and that yawning, hushed vocal (which nestles in neatly as an extra instrument) only heightens the kind of emotions that last came surging forth during playbacks of ’s Heavy Sky EP.

At 25 minutes, Let Yourself Be Huge is awfully curt for a full-length and has plotlines that, somewhat selfishly, refuse to reveal the “twist”, but considering the recurring themes and cyclical simplicity of it all, it’s perfectly adequate for an album that you can pick up at no charge. It doesn’t break any new ground in terms of content, is weaker than it is strong, and may quickly disappear from your playlists, but what it does offer is something intangibly vital – an engaging fragility that proves music really is food for the soul.

(You can read the review for Loop right here.)

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/cloudkicker-let-yourself-be-huge

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