Review Summary: Cloudkicker's mastermind, before you knew him.
The latest LP from Columbus, Ohio's Cloudkicker
, 2011's Let Yourself Be Huge
, seemingly came from out of nowhere. It was a grand departure from everything that Ben Sharp had worked towards building. Gone were the signature progressive metal melodies and complex drum patterns, replaced by minimalistic acoustics, strings and even a vocal track. However, the fact that Sharp made it work is a testament to his ability to think outside the box and deliver something unexpected but of the same quality displayed by his previous albums. Many wondered why he decided to change his game at all, and how he was able to flawlessly transition genres without a lull in creativity. Unbeknownst to most, he was writing under another pseudonym years before breaking into the underground metal scene. B.M. Sharp represents an early chapter in Sharp’s career that undoubtedly laid the foundation for his future project.
Music is Tight
is essentially a triple-album, made up of two year’s worth of ambient post-rock recordings. Sharp has claimed that the track order doesn’t matter and it can be listened to in any arrangement the listener pleases. Of course, any time something with twenty-nine songs is released, questions of variance in the music are asked. That is a lot of music to take in during one sitting. Admittedly, I find that these songs are better appreciated when listened to in waves. Despite his maintaining that there’s no specific track alignment, Sharp did classify the songs into three alternate sections representing different time periods (2006-2008.) Using this format, the songs begin to flow more effortlessly and his improvements in song-writing are definitely noticeable.
There is an underlying theme with these songs that becomes apparent after a short period of time: Sharp is fascinated with discovering the unknown. Many tracks have a shrouded and enigmatic feel to them, with the slow build-ups being nothing short of enthralling. Others, such as the ironically-titled “The Impalpable Veil of Gloom”, are light and blissful in their delivery. While Sharp’s technical skills were not fully matured at this point, his sense of direction and ability to create memorable melodies most certainly were. So much of what is present here evidently influenced his decision to stray from the Meshugah-esque complexities of his earlier work in Cloudkicker and take a more experimental approach. The production is another bright spot, as per usual, and it does wonders to enhance the listening experience when every audio track is clearly identifiable during playback.
In summary, this is an excellent collection of dreamlike songs that sheds light on Sharp’s humble beginnings as an independent artist. While the lack of vocals makes getting through all twenty-nine tracks a bit of a challenge, I find that they are best experienced while being background music as opposed to being front and center. Having said that, Music is Tight
makes me wish that Sharp would start writing more music under this pseudonym and let Cloudkicker go back to its natural habitat. There was a ton of potential to take this collection further, but it appears that he has no intentions of resurrecting this project (otherwise, why would he take Cloudkicker in such a similar direction?) Regardless, Music is Tight
serves as a reminder to fans of Cloudkicker that there is more to Ben Sharp than meets the eye.