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Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

7.9

Dylan Baldi is quickly becoming Cleveland’s finest musical export since Pere Ubu’s David Thomas.While that bold claim says a lot about the Mistake by the Lake’s lack of post-1980 output, it nonetheless points to quite an emerging talent (I’m excluding Trent Reznor on a technicality, by the way).

Baldi’s first full-band outing, Cloud Nothings’ 2013 Steve Albini-produced Attack on Memory, delivered a taut, hook-laced tension that compared favorably to early Pixies. Cloud Nothings maintain the power trio configuration on the new Here and Nowhere Else, although Baldi seems intent on tinkering with the approach elsewhere. For instance he’s replaced Albini with producer John Congleton, whose resume sports St. Vincent and Okkervil River alongside more raucous credentials. Congleton limits his showier touches to a few subtle vocal effects, but dials back some of the tension that carried earlier tracks like “No Future/No Past” and “No Sentiment.”

What hasn’t changed is Baldi’s preternatural gift for guitar hooks – Here and Nowhere Else plays like a parallel universe hit machine. Instead of loud/quiet/loud, Cloud Nothings traffic in fast/a little faster. “Quieter Today” pulls off this pattern to perfection; “Psychic Trauma” starts at a bro-friendly mid-tempo before accelerating to a breakneck pace. Baldi occasionally comes perilously close to putting too much accent on the pop in pop-punk, but thankfully he’s a world-class screamer and his overtaxed pipes and nihilist leanings scuff things up enough to retain indie cred.

Cloud Nothings are the rare band for which a parse of the liner notes can lead to the exclamation, “Great, a seven-minute song!” These are the tracks that unleash Baldi’s prowess with repetition and slow build – this time out it’s the ferocious, bass-buzzing “Pattern Walks,” which tumbles into a noise interlude at the halfway mark before reassembling for a heavy, heady conclusion. The disc could use one more of these.

To call Here and Nowhere Else a slight regression from the spectacular Attack on Memory is being greedy – this is a damn fine album in its own right.

Cloud Nothings
Here and Nowhere Else
[Carpark]