Frankly, I'm just as surprised as you are. Ben Sharp, known to many only as Cloudkicker, had warned earlier this year that he was not going to be releasing new material for a while. I guess Sharp's conception of a long time is drastically different from the norm, because the year hasn't even ended yet and he's already let loose a new full-length release, the brief but nonetheless beautiful Let Yourself Be Huge.
I do not exaggerate when I say this music is the most lovely of Sharp's career. The album seems to span his already sizable discography for influences, drawing inspiration from all aspects of his music up until now. "Explore, be curious" seems to be taking cues from the earliest post-rock material Sharp had written before even beginning Cloudkicker. The short, insistent lead guitar, the light background acoustic guitar, the simplistic drumming; all of these hint at some of his stronger pieces from the pre-Cloudkicker era like "Imbroglio" and "Grandee". It sets the tone for the album well, as the rest of the songs seem to be building upon his post-rock roots.
The second major track on the album is "You and yours", which was released as a single in late 2010, only a little while after Beacons was released. This is the only song on the album that breaks away from acoustica and plays with Cloudkicker's established metal sound. The unusual combination of time signatures (5/4 and 21/4 both stand out) and the slow, heavy, repetitive builds all are distinctive of Sharp's Isis-derived post-metal influences--you can definitely hear that the piece is cut from the same mould as "Oh, god." or "God Be With Ye". Of course, the song is still very reined in from his heaviest work; it only ever flirts with the intensity or rhythmic cacophony of "We're goin' in. We're going down." or "Dysphoria". However, it is a welcome nod to his heavier past work on an otherwise lighter album.
I briefly reviewed the third song on this album, "It's inside me, and I'm inside it", when it was released as a single earlier this year, and it is just as beautiful now as it was then. On this song, Sharp really lets himself burst out into the huge, wall-of-sound style that had become his trademark style. Even though the instruments are now acoustic, the dense and intricate layering can still be easily compared to pieces like "Hold On" and "The Discovery".
The final track on the album, "Let yourself be huge", is a straight-up post-rocker that builds on the same material as "Explore, be curious". However, instead of trying to purely emulate his earlier style, he branches out from it in the most delicate way possible. The presence of extremely light, subtle piano lines and simple vocals enhance Sharp's music incredibly. He may only be singing "Hey / I know / I know", but I'll be damned if it doesn't make the track the most beautiful individual song he's released to date.
The shorter acoustic pieces aren't as much to speak of, unfortunately. They feel underdeveloped, though not necessarily to the extent that the acoustic doodles on Loop are. They don't segue in with the songs around them like on The Discovery, so they wind up being little nuggets of material that are completely removed from what's happening around them. They're certainly enjoyable and fit in with the aesthetics of the album well, but they don't really add much to it other than five minutes of runtime.
Even with that, this album really is beautiful. The only real complaint I have is that the album felt a bit anticlimactic at first listen. While releasing singles ahead of an album's release date is standard practice, Sharp's disdain for wasting space means that, even though he only released two songs ahead of this album, we've already heard 40% of the finished product going into it. Granted, the music is still as beautiful now as it was then--"It's inside me, and I'm inside it" will never get old. It's just that, with such a short time span to cover, it took me a while to get over the sensation of wanting more. Of course, then I remembered that this album was free. That kind of illegitimised that criticism right out of the gate.
This album really needs time to grow. Once I had gotten past my initial dissatisfaction with the lower-than-expected amount of fresh material and the abrupt change of style, I realized that this music is still incredibly wonderful to listen to. It's great to hear that Sharp is still experimenting and constantly changing his style--even if this change of style is actually recapitulating a far earlier point in his career. It's shorter than anyone would like, and yes, we have already heard two of these songs before, but it's nonetheless an enjoyable addition to his catalogue. And for anyone who found his earlier metal works to be too abrasive, Let Yourself Be Huge is an excellent entry point to this wonderful musician's work.
7.5 / 10
Ohio-based musician Ben Sharp (aka Cloudkicker) has made it clear time and time again that he has no intention on confining himself to something as pedestrian as genre labels. Though ...
If there's any one artist who should make you happy to listen to music, it's Ben Sharp, aka Cloudkicker. Though releasing free music on the Internet isn't anything new, it's ...
Posted Nov. 15, 2014, 10:25 a.m.
Prog band Cloudkicker have announced a live recording of the band's North American tour with Intronaut, recorded as a live take of their set at The Fathom Tree recording ...
Posted Feb. 14, 2014, 9:13 p.m.
UK band TesseracT has scheduled a US and Canadian tour with Intronaut and Cloudkicker joining them. The tour is Cloudkicker's first, with Intronaut members forming his backing band. TesseracT ...
Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:
Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.