EP Review: Oscillate – Skepticism

Oscillate cover

I first met Conor Coleman – the man behind Oscillate –  when he was drumming for now-defunct local band As Legends Rise. We had a lot in common: we’re both drummers, we both work in teaching roles, and we have some similar tastes in music. I remember one time we were at a Datsuns gig at San Fran and he got concussed somehow. I was pretty worried for him, but in typical Conor style he just laughed it off.

Conor was at my flat getting a home-job tattoo from my flatmate (he got two: a bear on his chest, and a zombie skull on his shoulder) when he introduced me to djent – technical metal with focus on angular syncopated riffs. When he asked me to check out one of his side projects I expected something along those lines, something heavy and influenced by bands like Periphery and The Contortionist.

And it is. Music that Conor has released under the guise of Oscillate is undeniably djent-y. But I was impressed that the music is also far more multifaceted than that.

Most of it is tight and technical progressive metal with complex rhythms. But there are some more tender moments as well. I love the twinkling piano parts in ‘Skepticism’. ‘I Slept Through The Noise…’ has some enormous sounding ephemeral interludes. ‘And I Dreamt’ is a brilliant dreamy track with an electric drumbeat reminiscent of triphop music like Massive Attack. It has tender piano and reverberating guitar that makes you forget that you were listening to articulate metal riffing a minute beforehand.

I asked Conor about a sample of Tommy Lee Jones talking in the film No Country for Old Men. He told me that he chose it in part because he loved the movie, and because it explored how he felt at the time of recording, seemingly stuck with limited options forward. Themes of existentialism and inevitability run throughout the EP, like the musical equivalent of The Matrix (not that there are any lyrics to show this).

Cloudkicker is the most similar act that I can think of – a one-man post-metal project. Other similar sounding bands include Northlane, Dumbsaint and Russian Circles. That’s no small achievement for a 21-year-old solo musician. Conor has proven himself as more than just a metal drummer. This Oscillate EP shows off his skills as a multi-instrumentalist and composer, and reveals great potential for more to come.

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EP Review: Cloudkicker – Little Histories

Cloudkicker Little Histories cover

I’m shocked that I haven’t heard of Cloudkicker until now because it’s exactly the sort of thing I love to listen to. The music is a combination of post-rock, metal and djent – think along the lines of Russian Circles, Dumbsaint and Oceansize.

Then again, in some ways it isn’t all that surprising that I haven’t heard of it.

Cloudkicker is a one man project run by Ben Sharp, someone who has taken the DIY ethic to heart. All his music is self-produced and available on Bandcamp for pay-what-you-want. He doesn’t tour (being a one man band) and he’s not signed to a label. He’s not out to make any money from his project either.

The liner notes for a previous album, The Discovery, say “this album was recorded for a grand total of $0, and is therefore being distributed for free.  if you paid money for this you’re a sucker.” His music is also all filed under Creative Commons license, making it available to whoever, for whatever, for free. One label, Blood Music, took advantage of this by printing physical records of releases that Sharp had neglected to make himself, and Sharp was completely cool with it.

I hadn’t heard about Cloudkicker because there is no promotion for the project. Sharp doesn’t care about profiting from his music so he’s not pushing for publicity.

But now I’ve discovered Cloudkicker and I fell like a magpie in a jewellery shop. I love the music, and I have access to a large back catalogue that I can explore to discover musical gems.

Before I discuss Little Histories, I need to mention the Live with Intronaut album. This live album is one that negates many of the points that I just made about Cloudkicker. Because Cloudkicker is a one-man project, there was never much likelihood of live performances. But Sharp befriended the band Intronaut, who in turn offered up their services to Sharp as the Cloudkicker backing band. It didn’t seem possible at first, but in April 2014 it happened: a live tour and a live recording for those who couldn’t make the shows. The live album was released on Century Media due to contractual  obligations that Intronaut were held to, making it the only Cloudkicker release that isn’t fully DIY or available for free.

Little Histories is the EP that follows, released a month after the live album.

Little Histories transcends from the floaty “Parliment”, to the cosmic “Sky Guide”, that includes vocoder, before getting heavier with “Charmeleon”. “Digital Lightening” sounds sinister and ominous, distorted and washy until the articulate riffing begins. The last track, “Hassan” builds gradually, the tension escalates before the music begins to syncopate and layer up.

“Signal/Noise” is a digital bonus track originally released years ago. It won’t be included on a physical release Sharp is planning. A busy drum tattoo propels the songs as it ascends with guitar swells. The song gets fuzzier and the cymbals wash up as song escalates and the guitars soar.

The EP phases well between songs, there is a deliberate progression throughout. Sharp is a pilot and names many of his song and album titles after plane crashes. Although Little Histories isn’t a concept album as such, I like to think of it as a soundtrack for a flight. The flight is going smoothly, until they hit a storm and have to battle turbulence.

Although Cloudkicker is very much a metal project, there is plenty of variety on offer. There are quieter post-rock moments, and chugging djenty riffs, as well. Cloudkicker covers all sides of the spectrum.

This is one man messing around and self recording at home, but most of the music could pass for live instrumentation. I wouldn’t have been able to pick that he uses a drum machine.

If you like post-rock/metal/djent give Cloudkicker a listen. It won’t cost you anything and if you like it there is an extensive discography for perusal at your pleasure.

Joseph James