The thick-fogged Black Clouds meld together the heavy, screeching post-metal of acts like Isis with the more plaintive avenues of your average post-rock twinkle sweethearts, making for a sound that flirts with the sinister and ominous before giving way to something wide-eyed and aspirational. Furious noise meets ambient wash on 'Dreamcation', a record that rivals Deafheaven's 'Sunbather' for extracting beauty in the face of brute force.
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Post-rock is no longer a blank slate. It’s rare you’ll find a band like Explosions In The Sky in our contemporary landscape, the kind of second generation post-rock act that had a more disciplined understanding of the term “instrumental”: it’s not just a lack of vocals and conventional song structures that defines it, but an emptying out of those things, forgetting about people and their hand in making music. All that remains is this vast, anonymous landscape. Post-rock has since grown up, keeping its people and politics in some corners (thanks, Godspeed) and becoming a little uglier in others (thanks, metal); with that, other mid-generation acts, such as Russian Circles and This Will Destroy You, have fallen out of love with their crestfallen guitars and started cruising towards the heavy. But it takes a band like Black Clouds to fully realise the potential in marrying that early, beautiful post-rock sound with the world’s abundant filth.
‘Dreamcation’ is beautiful, of course, falling for most of post-rock’s most placating conventions: it sounds a bit like early Mono, in places, with guitars that oscillate hastily and drum fills that break into the thick post-rock ice. But it’s also a foggy affair: Black Clouds wash out their sound in industrial estate ambience and complement it with their reverence for sludge: they offer crushing breakdowns that stagnate the way Deftones did with ‘Saturday Night Wrist’, and there are also hints of the thinking rocker’s favourite genre, post-metal, in their work: those gnarlier riffs wouldn’t sound out of place on one of Isis’ grimacing compositions. For every beautiful riff, there’s a whacky guitar slide or a whole sink of distortion, a way of saying We Listened To System Of A Down As Kids. That is pretty rare for post-rock.
It’s hard to find ‘Dreamcation’ all that interesting when its sound is so old; the wave of post-rock Black Clouds are in love with has been historicized and put away, and the cliches they owe to that era feel a little too obvious: on “Low Places”, they sneak in one of those obscured vocal samples, as if they’re embarrassed by it, letting it sneak in quietly towards the end of the record. It’s telling of the record, which tries to hide away its obvious genre affectations in favour of the dynamic alternatives: be it the random programmed beats (which bring to mind the hugely underrated Lights Out Asia) or the gross, gruelling metal influence. ‘Dreamcation’ can be a somewhat exciting listen, but it's mostly a reminder that post-rock is often just a synonym for nice.
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