Cloakroom Dissolution Wave
I adore the idea of concept albums. Maybe it’s because they are so often space or fantasy based, and that’s my jam, or because such albums have the potential to be cohesive works with little filler. The latest album by Cloakroom, Dissolution Wave, indeed finds the band in spacey territory, unspooling the story over eight sublime tracks.
Together for ten years, Cloakroom’s members include Doyle Martin on guitar and lead vocals, Bobby Markos on bass, and Tim Remis on drums and vocals. Additional piano and loops come from Matt Talbott of Hum, which makes sense given that band’s influence on the heavy shoegaze genre. The trio is from Indiana and while their shoegaze sound is right at home in a Midwestern winter, their newest record reaches for a more interstellar medium.
I honestly cannot phrase the concept of this album better than the band themselves, so here (from their Bandcamp) is their description: “a space western in which an act of theoretical physics—the dissolution wave—wipes out all of humanity’s existing art and abstract thought. In order to keep the world spinning on its axis, songsmiths must fill the ether with their compositions. Meanwhile, the Spire and Ward of Song act as a filter for human imagination: Only the best material can pass through the filter and keep the world turning.” If that sounds too prog-rock, allow me to reassure you: the album is a perfectly paced, well-constructed heavy shoegaze journey through these themes, never bloated or overblown, and not so full of itself that it loses focus on what is important — the music.
Cloakroom performing in 2019 (photo by Kate Hoos)
It’s not the first time that Cloakroom has looked to the stars: previous releases include “Deep Space Station” (2018) and Time Well (2017). Fans of the complex, dense sound established on those records will not be disappointed by Dissolution Wave, which sees the band evolve even further. The music is heavy without being bogged down, with airy moments serving as a counterpoint. They kick right into their familiar driving crunch on the intro track “Lost Meaning,” one big drum hit preceding the full might of the band. Over the course of the record, the guitars weave through the mix yet never sound meandering; rather, every instrument (and vocal) here has a destination. Some unexpected notes and chord changes here and there keep the tracks from bleeding into each other. Much of the ‘spacey’ quality is provided by the vocals of Martin (full disclosure: I had some trouble picking out the lyrics on this record) while the thick basslines pin everything together under asteroids-crashing drums.
At times they flirt with poppier melodies, like on “A Force At Play,” but never long enough to leave the sludge behind (and that’s a good thing). Highlight tracks for me were “Lost Meaning,” “Dottie-back Thrush,” and “Lambspring.” I appreciate that the album ends on a solid note; as I was first listening I assumed the relatively lighter “Doubts” would be the last track (it has that sort of quality), and was then surprised by the opening chords of “Dissembler.” It’s a perfect conclusion statement: Cloakroom are not content to be a ‘fade-into-the-background” kind of shoegaze band. Rather, they are ready to fill the ether with a full-out aural assault to keep the world spinning. Dissolution Wave* is an album that will please immediately, with repeat spins revealing the nuances.
*(I wondered if the phrase “dissolution wave” was taken from a real concept in physics, hit Google, and after staring at the abstract for “Pit-Induced Electrochemical Layer Dissolution and Wave Propagation on an Au(111) Surface in an Acidic Thiourea Solution” by Lianqun Li, et al. in The Journal of Physical Chemistry for several minutes I concluded physics is not my game and went back to the music.)