Review Summary: Cloudkicker has become a well-oiled machine and released a majestic culmination of his previous works... geared towards musicality and substance rather than technicality and easy kicks.
When we last left Ben Sharp, we didn’t know where he was going to go next. What can an honest listener expect from a man who follows an album like Beacons with an album like Let Yourself Be Huge? Fortunately, Cloudkicker has become a well-oiled machine and released a majestic culmination of his previous works and much, much more. With ‘Fade’, Sharp has become geared towards musicality and substance rather than technicality and easy kicks. What the man displays here is not just a desire to progress from his previous works; it’s a willingness to embrace legitimacy as a musician and producer. As such, he’s met us near the brink of his career with what is a prime contender among the top albums of 2012.
It goes without saying that Sharp is content on paying tribute to some of his favorite artists (see: Smashing Pumpkins, Hum, Battles) while breaking into new, fresh, unexplored territory to the point where he’s not just another guy with a day job who makes music on the side. Given some of the song names, one could only speculate that Sharp is attempting to mirror the air of nostalgia of ‘You’d Prefer An Astronaut’. The record opens rather aptly with ‘From The Balcony’, which, from a musical and production standpoint is a fitting introduction to the rest of the record. ‘Seattle’ builds up with a grand crescendo, only to reel back several times into brooding atmospherics, deftly weaving between the loud and quiet before building up once again to a magnificent climax, vastly accentuated by the dynamic production. The almost danceable ‘LA After Rain’ is a sure highlight, with its bouncy and startlingly fresh bass line, which sounds as though it might have come from the early noughties New York scene a la The Strokes and Interpol. Unlike with Beacons and Let Yourself Be Huge, one simply cannot tell whether or not the drums are digitally programmed or recorded live; yet another feature of ‘Fade’ that is unmistakably organic. ‘Making Will Mad’ operates in much the same way as 'Seattle', though compellingly different. The record is closed by a LYBH-esque cross between ‘You and Yours’ and ‘Oh, God’, a fitting end to what is a sprawling, expansive opus; a cornerstone of the Cloudkicker discography and a promise of what is to come.
While ‘Fade’ sees Sharp coming to his own as a musician and songwriter, it’s also effectively his debut as a producer – while he may have written, recorded, mixed and mastered Cloudkicker’s previous works, it always seemed to be driven by necessity; simply the wood that held the canvas together, rather than the focal point of the painting. ‘Fade’ may well be the first album to take fully take advantage of the CD format. Though Steven Wilson’s ‘Grace For Drowning’ had dynamic range we'd rarely seen since the seventies, it also sounded like a seventies record (see: Miles Davis) – drums with only a small amount of punch, modest jazz instrumentation and sparse texturing at most. Indeed, Bjork’s ‘Biophilia’ was a similarly dynamic record, as opposed to the flat, loudness-war torn majority of today’s releases, but it lacked the power that is needed to show the new kids on the block that, instead of boosting your music through the roof in the mastering stage, ushering the listener turn up their volume. What this new era of audio production needed was a truly dynamic, heavy record, with the power and crunch of a metal record and the expansive textures of a post-rock album.
Though Sharp has succeeded here, it feels as though this is that one step short of opus territory. Cloudkicker has been building up to something, and ‘Fade’ feels like it’s one album short of the crux of his career. Though it is the product of a forward-moving motion, ‘Fade’ almost draws upon influences too extensively to the point where it hints toward the ‘throwback’ department. The Butch Vig-esque layering of the guitars and the contrasting between Big Muff distortion and clean tones are heavily reminiscent of Siamese Dream, to the point where it's damn obvious. With that said, what we’ve witnessed so far in Cloudkicker’s run is a grand crescendo, nearing its peak, on the brink of a climax. ‘Fade’ is excellent; it’s a body of work that surpasses Beacons and Let Yourself Be Huge, and one can only speculate as to what comes next.
This is literally what all albums released today are turned into, and this technique is borne out of the delusion that albums will sound 'better' when played next to another album if it is 'louder'. In order to make their album louder, the mastering engineer boosts the track until everything is all squashed and boomy, so the drums have no punch, there is no depth between the sounds and there are no dynamics.
This is easily one of the best produced albums since the late 1990's.
"Sharp is content on paying tribute to some of his favorite artists (see: Smashing Pumpkins, Hum, Battles) while breaking into new, fresh, unexplored territory"
Agree with the first part, totally disagree with the second. Tons of people do this in the vague 'post-rock' area all the time. Didn't hear anything in this I haven't heard before. As far as the review: well, you can make a cardboard box exciting if you have imagination. Doesn't change reality. Pos'd for the writing even though it comes off as fanboyish.
"Though the production is quite good, this superlative is totally unwarranted"
That's where you're wrong - I can back up that claim. About 99 percent (I'm not exaggerating) of albums that have come out between 1998 and 2012 are victims of the 'loudness' war. This means that, at the mastering stage, albums have made to be as loud as possible, thereby crushing everything together and ruining the dynamics. In audio engineering terms, this is one of the best produced albums since the late 1990s.
"I felt your speculation on the loudness-war was unnecessary and that you'd just watched that video and now you're trying to come across as a music mastering know-it-all."
From my point of view, the production of this album is perhaps the most significant aspect of this record. Anybody with a basic understanding of this will agree that it's the first step away from a terrible/widespread habit. I've recorded, mixed and mastered a couple of albums and have a wide understanding of/actively practice different mastering techniques. I wouldn't make such claims without being well informed on the subject. Not trying to 'toot my own horn' though. Cheers for the pos
Thats because he has had the album for a grand total of a day Dev lol.
My point lol. Like MO said (and it's not just for this guy) people round here are so quick to jump the gun, like there's some kind of prize involved. Granted that by default does it become the "main" review, but that can be changed depending on the writing of others