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Cloakroom – Dissolution Wave LP (Relapse)

24 September 2022

If you’re pining for the melodic and heavy space-rock from the late 90s, Cloakroom has returned with its third album to provide the sublime but downcast shoegaze sound your spirit craves. Dissolution Wave is the aural equivalent of a weighted blanket. The downtempo, sub-oceanic textures may seem to be oppressive whale calls to unfamiliar ears, but to others this will be pure comfort and bliss. Count this listener among the latter camp. The most obvious point of connection is Champaign, Illinois’ late great Hum. It’s not for nothing that singer/guitarist Doyle Martin, bassist Robert Markos, drummer Timothy Remis, and longtime engineering partner Zac Montez sought Matt Talbott’s Earth Analog Studio in Tolono, Illinois to perfect the sonic palette for this so-called “space western.” Other points of reference include My Bloody Valentine’s wall of twisted cacophony, and Triple Fast Action’s “Heroes” played at half speed. Martin’s subdued but sweet vocal on “A Force at Play” is swamped by layers of reverb-drenched and distorted guitar. The song is driven by a restrained but bedrock rhythmic foundation of drum and bass but given a competing sense of lightness by drifting vocal harmonies a twinkling electric piano. The lyric describes the merely subtle highs among familiar lows while undertaking the servitude to “bottle lightning beams for you.” The twisted-metal grind of “Lost Meaning” evokes distance and isolation. The title cut follows suit. “Everyone I know is getting harder to know,” sings Martin in his hazy baritone. “Maybe I should, too,” he adds. “Fear of Being Fixed” suggests that no one has made a clean getaway to greener pastures. “The things I hear, they don’t make me wise,” sings Martin. “Hear ‘em all the time.” The chiming “Lambspring” is Dissolution Wave’s gentlest track, carrying sweet sorrow atop Markos’ gliding bass and the seafoam swells of Remis’ cymbals, until Martin’s power chords come crashing to the forefront. Talbott guests on the waltz-time “Doubts,” another weary lament rendered more lovely by Martin and Remis’ harmonies. “I was carrying a fire but now that’s going out,” they sing. Talbott’s backward tape loops accompany the rootsy twang of Martin’s languid guitar solo. The album’s underlying concept is explained this way: the dissolution wave has erased humanity’s creative energy. In order to keep the world spinning, new artists must fill the ether with song. However, an authority figure identified in the bruising song “Dissembler” stands ready to judge whether the work is worthy and ultimately whether the author is allowed a chance to flourish in the next world. The drifting melody and careening guitars during “Dissembler” suggest the pop-infused shoegaze of The Catherine Wheel’s debut album Ferment. Martin’s fantastical Dissolution Wave scenario serves as an escape from the oppressive reality during and following 2020, while also holding a mirror to it. Dissolution Wave is available in formats including clear vinyl with a gatefold sleeve.