It makes me quite content knowing that not only is Ben Sharp an Ohio native, but he also happens to live in my very city. While I don't personally know him, it's great knowing that such an intriguing musician actually resides in the city of Columbus. And not only does he simply call this city his home, but rather, it is the place of Cloudkicker's entire existence. You see, although Mr. Sharp has garnered quite a bit of attention with his instrumental project, he does not tour, nor does he go to any studio. Cloudkicker is a completely at home endevour. Sharp writes, records, and produces all of Cloudkicker's material at his home in Columbus.
And that's what I find so endearing about Cloudkicker. It feels like a natural progression for music, where one man can create art, and distribute it as he/she wills. While it's ridiculous to assume that the music industry will fold, paving the way for one person acts across the nation, it is really interesting to see what Sharp is doing here. All of Cloudkicker's material thus far has been completely free. While there aren't true, manufactured physical jewel cased disks, every song can be found on his website. Sharp simply enjoys what he is doing, making music and letting others enjoy. And enjoyment is exactly what people have been getting out of Sharp's music. Since 2008's "The Discovery," Cloudkicker has gone on to release three EP's and a sophomore LP. "Portmanteau" is the music act's third effort, and an overall brilliant EP.
What is so interesting about "Portmanteau" is that one can fully hear Cloudkicker's metamorphosis from an "melodic Meshuggah," to what he's accomplished on his second album. It's a great mediation between both styles. While I never really agreed with the Meshuggah comparison, as there have been other bands to have actually done polyrithms, it seemed like a decent enough tag to garner him some attention. However, since his debut, Cloudkicker has veered of that path and has really begun to make a name for himself. Stylistically, "Portmanteau" is more melodic, and features less "chug-a-lugging" than in previous releases. It's the sound of an artist growing comfortable with himself and his sound, and it all feels very organic. Unfortunately, there are still moments of mechanical chugging, which detract a little from the overall personality of the EP. However, there's more variety throughout, with some clear moments of beauty at the beginning of "Modulator/Demodulator," and some very chaotic moments in "God Be With Ye." "God Be With Ye" is really the stand out of the EP. It's got plenty of highs and lows, with a lot of variety that really shows off Sharp's skills as a musician and performer. The polyrithmic portions are fantastic without seeming too gimicky, and the slower portions lack any sort of generic vibe. It is truly a brilliant track with a lot of detail and precision.
For an at home endeavor, "Portmanteau" sounds incredible. I'm not sure what kind of magic Sharp does in his at home studio, but whatever it is clearly works. The drums are digitized, but all of the work is done by him and him alone. And the wonderful guitar work is also done by him. He states that he will simply sit down and noodle around on his guitar until he finds something that works. Yet it all feels a little more planned out than that, because everything works so well.
"Portmanteau" is a brilliant, wonderful EP. With such simple, yet profound releases, Cloudkicker is truly becoming the musician to watch.