Cloaks – Versus Grain

I got my claws on a promo copy of “Versus Grain” last week. I have been keeping track on these guys from the U.K. ever since I heard their “Hi-Tek” EP something like two years ago. So this first full lengths has been a long time coming. After getting the  “Against / Rust on Metal” single,  which served as a teaser for this album last month, I just had to check this out.

Cloaks form a noisy mixture of industrial, ambient, dub & break elements. Hard to compare to any artist ( if anything, recent Scorn, the heaviest Distance or King Cannibal should come to mind ). If those names are a warning to you, read no further because there is no middle ground on this release.

Whereas the “Hi Tek” EP was still a mutant dubstep variant for the better part, there is little of that remaining on this full length. It is not that danceable (if anything, I found myself headbanging). In fact, only two tracks mess around with the 140 bpm rhythm which is a dubstep trademark. The rest are all faster or slower.  The ingrediënts are a dense layer of industrial sounds, big basses, distortion and computer samples which are piled up to create a thick slab of noise. The sterile but full bass provides a kick in the stomach to any listener.
Opening track #00148 immediately provides one of the highlights for me. From the rumbling opening sounds (almost like a Geiger meter or something) to the outburst of sterile & clinical basses and programmed drums. This track is a cold and relentless introducer to a dark listening experience. At 148 bpm’s it’s still remarkably danceable as well.
The beginning of  Junk is just scary. A distorted computer voice utters words that are incomprehensible. This could be coming straight out of a horror movie. But then the rolling bass line sets in which is even heavier than the opening track and you move completely into an industrial comfort zone.
Against was already featured on 12″ and has a more  break  inspired approach. It is slow in the build up and shows that these guys can actually write songs and not just pummel everyone with heavy bass lines and noise.
Rust on Metal was also featured on that same 12″ and is one of the highlights. It sounds like a manipulated or extremely down tuned guitar was processed to form the main bass and melody line (if you can call it that). Again the programmed beats are still quite danceable and I can see a wide range of people enjoying this (people with extreme taste in music though). This will certainly appeal to metal heads as well.

In between the aforementioned two tracks, we have #00162 .  Again an opening reminding me of classic break(core) with a very danceable drum rhythm programmed underneath it. Probably the most dance able tune on the release, too bad it clocks in at only 01.38 minutes.

Sixemenaxetwo serves as the main piece on this release. Here I clearly notice industrial influences from bands like Godflesh and Scorn. Rhythm & drum wise this could come straight from “Streetcleaner” (an album released in the 80’ies!). The electronic sound layers placed over this makes this one really worth while. Heavy, mood creating and well produced. The second half of the tracks sees just more and more layers of noise placed over the basic drum patterns.  Highlight track of the album for me.

#00197 has some hints at actual melody at the start. It’s 143 bpm rhythm is also more reminiscent of dubstep. So this one probably sounds the closest related to the “Hi Tek” EP from 2007.

R.F.I.D. reminded me of acts like Techno Animal, again Scorn and King Cannibal. It’s pretty danceable at around 80 bpm’s. The bass & noise are cut down on a little and there is more focus on rhythm. Still it is a pretty pummeling experience.
The album closes off with the 5 minute plus track Detritus, the only track that is actually 140 bpm’s flat. It has a long ambient / noise intro and the beats and rhythm are so deeply buried in the noise that it is almost impossible to distill them. On a very experimental album, this was probably just a little too experimental for me, and thus I find it to be the only weaker cut on the album.

Who should get this? It certainly isn’t easy listening, but it is edge cutting and creative in dealing with existing genre’s that have come to stalemate. Any fan of past industrial giants like Godflesh or Scorn, will surely get some fun out of this release. Ambient noise is another big ingrediënt so anyone enjoying Merzbow and the likes can check this out. For a correct audience, it is still danceable and the basses re monstrous so even dubheads can like this.
Everyone who enjoys harmony and melody should stay away from this as far as possible. I find it to be one of the strongest experimental releases all year.

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