With their overdrive set to 11, their watery chorus effects and bloody-throat Kurt Cobain-influenced vocals, Cloud Nothings raise the question: Have we had enough of indie rock yet? Even if we have, Cloud Nothings has a reputation for freshness, originally invested in their 2012 release Attack on Memory. This was an important album because it employed the often-overlooked concept of sonic journeying, an experiment in sounds both hard rocking and softly scenic, yielding a larger and more interesting span of territory.
Without this concept, bands like Cloud Nothings turn out generic post-punk, but we call it indie because it is played by guys in vests and fake glasses to set them apart from the macho attitude that was once expected in rock music.
Now, on their senior album Here and Nowhere Else released April 1 through Carpark Records, Cloud Nothings hone their unique sonic journey and push it to experiment with paradox. Guitarist/vocalist Dylan Baldi’s noisy strumming and tremolo are explosively percussion-driven and yet movingly melodic. The album’s lyrics are both emotive and upbeat, resulting in a work that is honest, personal and yet wholly disinterested.
Here and Nowhere Else opens with “Now Hear In.” This is the closest this album gets to being normal and straightforward. The riffs are simple throughout, the vocals are clean and the drums are moving – a normalcy only slightly undercut by the emotionally distant proclamation, “I can feel your pain / And I feel alright about it” in the song’s chorus.
“Quieter Today” displays the breadth of the sounds the band is capable of producing, beginning with a melodic strum evocative of pop punk. As the listener is getting used to this, it dissolves into noisy atonal tremolo picking and unintelligibly slurred vocals. In spite of this, the drums and bass keep the song in order, consistent with the album’s levelheaded negativity.
“Psychic Trauma” continues that theme, showing us a negativity that is episodic, and like with a person, some episodes are worse than others. The song begins on a depressive balladic note, as Baldi reflects, “Tried to stop it, tried to feel something / But nothing happens, I stayed the same.” This time, the music does lose complete control, dissolving by the last minute to an all-instrumental tremolo with a rhythmic center too rapid to discern.
The band’s lo-fi punk roots begin to show on “Just See Fear” and stay throughout “Giving Into Seeing” and “No Thoughts,” but they show in a matured form. It’s punk but controlled by adaptive and champion drummer Jayson Gerycz and lead by Baldi’s calloused vocal cords and guitar work that is at any and all times subject to breaking tone and rhythm to hold a single-note tremolo for multiple measures.
The pinnacle of the album is “Pattern Walks,” which begins somewhat muted; it is an awkward melody sung through seemingly clenched teeth, followed by the bass and a basic drumbeat. The chorus of the song is heavier, but the epic feature of the song comes after the third chorus repetition in the form of a bridge so vast it takes up half of the seven-minute track. All instruments lose themselves in the cosmic destination that the album’s sonic journey has brought them; this includes the vocals, which only repeat, “I thought” until the close of the song.
“I’m Not Part of Me” ends the album on an introspective note that returns to the more normal sound and structure of “Now Hear In.” The album culminates with the same negativity that exists throughout but accepts it with full control, equanimity and even choice.