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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Cloud Cult
The Meaning of 8
Earthology

Rating: 9/10 ?


April 2, 2007
With its opening barrage of digital organicism, Cloud Cult's follow up to 2005's acclaimed and unfortunately named Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus sets about exemplifying the creative bloom of sound collage. While not necessarily directly in deed, primary songwriter Craig Minowa exhibits in spirit the high points of pop music's excesses; lines can be drawn from The Meaning of 8 to the old (Pixies, the heyday of the Elephant 6 collective) and the new (Arcade Fire, Dan Snaith's Manitoba/Caribou). Awkward vocals, oddball dynamics, weeping strings, dirty electronic flourishes, off-piste melodies - although it is all loosely, sometimes perilously darned together, everything is here to a certain degree and ultimately it all holds water.

Lyrically, Minowa is in peak form here, which warrants mentioning due to the fact that his vocal delivery is generally high in the mix, often delivered in a cadence that adds its own percussive punch at the right time. The Meaning of 8's topical projections touch on compassion, voyeurism, faith, escapism, naturalist ideas and of course the personal trials of the singer himself, who lost his young son several years ago. While the songs are sermons of a sort, Minowa never really gets preachy; his delivery is often over-the-top but never feels pretentious.

Much like the business end of things (the environmental impact of their tours are offset by the purchase of green energy credits, the production of their CDs is undertaken with recycled materials and clean energy), Cloud Cult's music teeters on the knife-edge between indulgence and restraint. Balance is everything. The band's songs are wrought with dissonance and turmoil, but the melodies are palpable enough to provide parity, at times conjuring visions of Frankensteinian ensembles like Kammerflimmer Kollektief fronted by Mates of State.

From the early going The Meaning of 8's distorted bass lines bound with ebullience beneath a clattering kitchen sink din of toy piano, dilapidated drum kit, electric and acoustic guitars, laptop glitches, glockenspiel, and bowed strings. The ingredients might not be off the shelf, but the pudding is far from proofless, as The Meaning of 8's beats are effusive, prompting if not toe tapping then at the least head nodding, and on occasion ("Please Remain Calm" is a good example from the album's early going) go so far as to incite dance floor grooves.

"Brain Gateway" is an off-key dirge, its blown-out bass (reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel's On Avery Island) paired as counterpoint with Minowa's plaintive vocals, the subdued melodies of keys and toy piano treating the track to a bright balance. "Purpose" hums along, fuzzy synth lines anchoring a mélange of airy percussion and distant, filtered piano. Later, the raucous instrumental "Shape of 8" pairs hollow digital drums with a swell of squelching effects and glittery tambourine for a minute and a half before drifting off into the carnivalesque parade of "The Girl Underground."

Even when there seems to be a tug toward restraint, such as in "The Deaf Girl's Song," simple acoustic guitar strums, with accompaniment from soft percussion and sweeping strings, eventually birth a fullness of their own that, while a far cry from the album's more congested numbers, is rich in its own right. The track is followed by "Hope," which likewise begins softly enough before devolving into a teeming swirl of sounds, the band's innumerable elements and tones fighting amongst themselves while drowning in their own wake. The track eventually calms down and fades out to the dead silence of "Song of the Deaf Girl" at album's end, and just like that the 19 tracks are primed for another cycle.

Although The Meaning of 8 is wrought with beautiful moments - quasi symphonic passages, touching vocal melodies, invigorating (but never abrupt) dynamic shifts - the album's imperfections are what perhaps best exemplifies Cloud Cult's textural agenda. Their music, like life, isn't about surgical precision or hygienic sheen; sticking your head into the middle of a Cloud Cult track, like sticking your head into any given moment in the stream of life, can be disorienting and chaotic, if not downright scary. But viewed from a panoramic vantage point The Meaning of 8 is about impulse, saturation, dirt under the nails, wounds that scab over and become beautiful scars. As remote or bristling as things might feel one second, in the end everything works out, for better or worse, blemishes and all.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth

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