Review Summary: Short and sweet
Cloakroom’s own description of their music as “stoner emo” has stuck to the band like glue. It’s sort of an evocative turn of phrase, all the more so because most bands’ proclamations of a similar ilk end up being pretty disappointing. Far more often than not, when a group declares themselves to be the incarnation of a previously unknown merger of styles, it turns out that the music in question is actually pretty generic, or at least far from unique, and the whole thing rankles a bit. With Cloakroom, this common gripe is irrelevant, because the collective genuinely does have their own style, built from a fairly impressive array of influences.
If one had to pigeonhole Cloakroom’s music, most would simply describe them as shoegaze, given the group’s notable similarities to contemporary groups on the heavier side of the genre, like Nothing and Narrow Head. That’s not really fair at all though, as the group’s riffage has a certain something to it which recalls heavy psych/stonerism and additionally makes “space rock” a plausible term for what’s going on. As well, the always strong, if sometimes unintelligible, lyrics add a dimension of indie and emo, and the group’s sonic explorations have often wandered lazily into slowcore and folk territories. Suffice to say that Cloakroom are an interesting band and don’t quite fit into anyone’s preconceived notions.
2017’s Time Well
is one of those albums which tend to stick with the listener. Its ponderous collection of spacey shoegaze-meets-slowcore anthems scratched a very particular itch, even if I’d argue that it had some weaker moments and may have stretched on a bit excessively. By the look of it, the band themselves may have felt similarly, with the album’s long-awaited follow-up Dissolution Wave
clocking in over twenty minutes shorter than its predecessor. The average song here is notably more concise, and broadly it feels like Cloakroom aim for a taut and focused experience, while doing what they do best. As such, expect a preponderance of heavy shoegaze/space rock (literally, as the new set of tunes function as a pseudo-concept album about an “asteroid miner who writes songs by night”). This isn’t to say that the group has abandoned experimentation, as there are some interesting song structures in tunes like “Dottie-Back Thrush” and the closer “Dissembler”, with its jarring sudden stop near the end, not to mention “Doubts”, which provides an intriguing vision of Americana through a shoegaze prism.
It’s very early yet, and the jury remains out on how Dissolution Wave
will hold up in comparison to the rest of Cloakroom’s solid discography. What can be said is that, three LPs and two EPs in, the Midwestern outfit maintains a very reliable standard of quality. Even while trimming back the expansiveness of their last offering, they’re still aiming for the stars (see what I did there). Go ahead, ask your friendly neighborhood theoretical physicist what a Dissolution Wave
is and you’ll get the simple answer, in layman’s terms: it’s a set of eight great songs, heavy enough to get your head nodding and with enough feeling to tug at the heart as well.