Before I review this demo that was handed to me, let me begin by saying that I don’t usually bother with music that is literally handed to me. I worked for a season at Rasputin Music on Telegraph Avenue, and quickly learned to filter out the mix-tape handouts and freely offered music near the store entrance. After listening to local group White Cloud, however, I’m rethinking my policy. The demo CD is a sweet introduction, initially captivating but also enchanting over time. I shall explain further in another new segment of mine, Music Only Music But Music.
Pat, Shiv, Nick and James make up the band’s four members (five if you include “Sammy the Sampler”), assuming the traditional roles of guitars / drums / vocals. Defining their genre is tricky, and a quick glance at their “Influences” will tell you why: Neu!, Can, Tchaikovsky, Philip Glass, Rick Ross, Jacques Dutronc, Om, The 13th Floor Elevators? Seems excessive, until you give them a first listen, wherein you’ll find a little of everything.
The disc is technically a mashing of three separate two-track singles, all of which are available here. You could listen to them as such, but since they were given to me as a six-track entity, consider the merits of this order!
- I Know It: As an opener and a song in general, this song delivers fluid drums, airy atmospherics, rough and steady guitar, and melodic lyrics that are open-ended and engaging. The first few seconds have all the dreamy, blast-off-into-outer-space sensation of Radiohead’s “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” run through a lovely haze of gentle feedback. Track one has barely begun and they’ve already established the sonic identity of their band name: White Cloud. Namely, a surreal, pleasantly confusing experience: far above the ground, lost in sound, often strange but absolutely enjoyable.
- Drag: Here we have fun, dual guitar-play, synergistic drums and a blend of sunny psychedelica. It works well as track two, not by changing the tone in major ways but by enhancing it … then tweaking it slightly, halfway through. The range exhibits each musician’s talent and makes for a great track.
- Alarm Clock: This changes the tempo without moving away from the overall feel: fuzzy, rhythmic, wavering in a hypnotic sort of way. Even their two-minute songs have room for maneuvering melody and finding layers: the break gets me every time.
- Sundew: Track four hits strong from the get-go and moves into a harder rock feel – the technical effects, once brightly coloring the instrumentation, now take a back seat to the music. That is … until the strings come in, spicing things nicely with an electronic splash.
- Braised Cattle: They open up with bizarre samples (reminiscent of Can or Kraftwerk), but James’ drumming carries us smoothly into the Faustian guitar and glowing vocals. As it kicks into the second half, one appreciates the vocals’ constancy. Instead of alternating tones, the singing is reliable all throughout.
- Anesthesia: The guitars are rough and sweet, the drums are beautiful and insane. I just love this closer. It rocks.
The band demonstrates flexibility: they can pull off a sweet moody tone, a blaring wall of sound, a catchy melody or a burst of confusion, often within the same track. Their transitions are unpredictable without being unappealing – we can follow the twists and turns because their influences have blended with their inspiration; they’re more than the sum of their parts; they have achieved a distinct world of sound in a mere six tracks.
As such, they proudly defy genre. If you listen to all 18 minutes and six seconds of this disc, how would you “classify” it or sum it up? Hard Indie? Psychedelic blues? Neo-Krautrock? As with the most innovative bands, it’s less about fitting in and more about standing out; or, in this case, blasting out.