Indiana-based Cloakroom have taken an uncompromising approach on sophomore full-length ‘Time Well’, with tracks averaging six minutes minutes in length, lyrics contemplating evolution, apocalypse and mental health, and a genre-hopping sound that sees americana, indie-rock and even shoegaze making an appearence.
First up is the gloomy ‘Gone But Not Entirely’, a slow-builder that begins simply with Brian Busch on drums. Incorporating religious imagery of gods, sacrifice and removing “impurities”, it’s a thought-provoking opener. Next ‘Big World’ introduces a heavier sound alongside disillusioned lyrics. This resignation becomes a tangle of distorted guitars and eerie vocals, symbolically fading out as the layers dissolve into the mix.
‘Concrete Gallery’ is a grungy, melancholic effort that chugs on determinedly, despite little variation. Doyle Martin’s sombre vocals accurately express his despondency but obscure references to a “compendium of concrete” may confuse listeners.
Unlike its predecessors, ‘Seedless Star’ starts with a denser, post-punk sound. Later the metallic twangs of guitars melt into a distorted solo, the vocals disappear into overpowering static and a piano takes centre-stage – stark contrasts which perfectly capture a dystopian world.
The album does drag at points, namely ‘Sickle Moon Blues’ and ‘Hymnal’, which both become slightly monotonous. The former has a more uplifting, dreamy vibe scarcely heard elsewhere on ‘Time Well’, so it’s a shame this wasn’t embraced more.
Album highlight ‘The Sun Won’t Let Us Go’ manages to combine the characteristics of folk, indie and slowcore; all while also displaying the minimalist style and vulnerability of singer-songwriters such as Bon Iver or City and Colour. Although gentle vocal harmonies launch the track, it ends with a drawn-out buzz, an unnerving sound that matches the record’s malaise.
With a run time totalling over 60 minute‘Time Well’ could prove to be a challenging listen for most. Nevertheless, it’ll strike a chord with fans of bands such as Slowdive and Nothing, or contemplative music overall. Cloakroom have remained true to themselves and created a difficult but intriguing release.
‘Time Well’ by Cloakroom is out now on Relapse Records.
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Words by Clare O’Shea (@Clare_OShea)