Review Summary: Big things come in hidden packages.
Enigma is a rare entity these days. Look at the internet – it is the knife in the chest of mystique, the single round that brought an end to everything we didn’t know about the people on our record players. There is no doubt a gratuitous sense of satisfaction wondering what ***ing planet the musicians on that new album you just bought came from. What do I know, though? I was born in 1995. Of course, along with all the other few million Tool fans in the world, I will declare that I am a fan of enigma. I am a fan of the artistic persona, and while the tools exist to see everything plus one, the artistic persona will just become more and more of a rarity.
Introduce yourself to Mister B.M. Sharp, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who also goes by the name of ‘Cloudkicker’. This man, for all intents and purposes, is one of the few possessors of enigma in this violating day and age, and in lieu of his shady artistic façade, is creating some of the most unique music to grace the last decade. Never mind the absence of vocals – Sharp has created one of the most exciting follow-ups to an instrumental album you’ve ever heard. Amidst all of the melancholy, Sharp’s gripping ‘Let Yourself Be Huge’ grabs the listener and refuses to let go until the climatic end. The record, cleverly structured and coherent as can be, is the perfect length and possesses a number of distinct focal points tied together by well-placed segue ways. ‘Explore, Be Curious’ is perhaps the most elegantly ethereal tracks we’ve heard since the more polarizing sections of Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’, with some of the most striking guitar timbres in recent memory blended profligately together throughout the course of its song-length crescendo.
While the underwhelming ‘It’s Inside Me, And I’m Inside It’ misses a few targets on the firing range, Sharp brings out his 12-gauge on ‘You and Yours’, complete with some neat delay wizardry and explicitly contrasted textures. The segue-ways each share common traits in a stylistic sense, but are separated enough to tie each of the focus tracks together in a fantastically smooth and articulate manner. ‘The Word Water’ and ‘One, Many’ serve as prime examples as to why Sharp’s guitar playing is recognised as some of the industry’s most diverse, alongside that of Tosin Abasi and Steve Judd. Conclusively, the title track may as well come straight off of the Air disc of ‘The Alchemy Index’, with its skipping drum beat, pseudo-alternative bass tone and some Thrice-esque leads. It all comes together in a sprawling, progressive affair that proves as the listener’s final push off on their magic carpet journey. Sharp surprises his audience yet again with the inclusion of a minimalistic yet breathtaking vocal line, which brings the record to a close at just over 26 minutes.
Take away the air of mystique that is forever longed for by music fans such as I and what do you get? You get a neat, coherent piece of instrumental music that isn’t quite as good as ‘Beacons’, yet much better in the sense of an album than ‘The Discovery’. Is it truly fair, though, to compare this record to its predecessors? Stylistically, it stands on its own grounds, but as a Cloudkicker record it is defining in every sense of the word. ‘Let Yourself Be Huge’ is Ben Sharp’s coming-of-age - the product of a transition from musical childhood to adulthood. To most listeners it would seem as the the next time round in the Cloudkicker department could be a whole new ball game. Either that, or it could be a complete let-down. Who knows?