Cloakroom - Dissolution Wave (Album Review)

Feb. 7, 2022


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Ten years in, Indiana’s Cloakroom has continued to bring together elements of shoegaze, emo, and some metal tonality together in unexpected ways.  Quite some time has passed since 2017’s Time Well, which found the band expanding outwards towards a lengthy hour run-time and tweaking their formula in meaningful ways.  In contrast, their third album Dissolution Wave feels more reigned in at a brisk thirty-seven minutes but it also finds them making further tweaks and exploring some additional musical elements.  In some ways it feels like a band looking inward at what they’ve done for the past ten years and trying to get down to that core essence of what makes their music have an identity, and while Dissolution Wave doesn’t fully hit its stride until the last few songs there’s still plenty to get lost in as the layers of sound pass over you.

Some shoegaze and space rock takes its time to methodically build up and meanders for longer than it needs to, but you’ll notice upon hitting play that Cloakroom is a bit more up-tempo and has driving rhythms that keep things moving.  This makes sense given the generally shorter track lengths Dissolution Wave has compared to its predecessor, and “Lost Meaning” greets you with the noisy distortion of shoegaze, the warmer melodies and driving tempos of 90s alternative rock, and the weight and grit of some doom and stoner rock.  It’s a combination that makes an immediate impression, and Cloakroom continues to iterate on that approach and explore different textures for the remainder of the album.  Some songs strip back the distortion and weight almost entirely for dreamier soundscapes that have more in common with post rock or even some 90s emo, while others go straight into Slowdive or Ride type shoegaze.  The commonality between each song is the warmness of the textures, which draw you in and yet feel somewhat distant at the same time.  Admittedly even with the more deliberate pacing, Dissolution Wave is still a grower rather than one of those albums that has immediate hooks from beginning to end.  Part of this is due to the most entrancing melodies and intriguing moments coming towards the end, as the run from “Lambspring” to “Dissembler” is incredible.  “Doubts” even brings in some Americana flair as well that was a bit unexpected and showcases Cloakroom ability to transform within the realm of shoegaze and alternative rock.  The rest of the material still has plenty of consistency, but some of it does ebb and flow without leaving a truly lasting impression on me.

Described as a space western, Dissolution Wave explores the idea of a world where songwriters must fill the ether with their compositions to keep the world spinning on its axis.  It’s a very appropriate theme for a band that often has a spacey and distant sound that occasionally feels somewhat alien in how it tweaks some of the established genre conventions.  The creativity and confidence of this theme is expressed in Doyle Martin’s performance, as where his voice lacked some of that oomph and got washed away by the layers of sound previously here it tends to soar over the recording.  There are still some moments where his voice recedes into the void (the title track sticks out quite a bit due to this), but the majority of the record pushes Martin forward and Cloakroom is better for it.  At times there’s almost a bit of a pop aesthetic to the softness of the singing, and this provides a nice contrast with the bursts of distortion and metallic sheen.

There’s a lot of depth to this recording and while the subtle details may not grab you during those first few listens, they really start to shine as you get more and more listens in.  A few moments still establish a warm and inviting atmosphere but come and go without really hooking you, and I think the imbalance between how strong the back half is compared to the first is what just keeps this one out of the A range for me.  Yet Cloakroom’s continued refinement is appealing and their more compact approach to songwriting and driving tempos is working, making this well worth the time of those who can appreciate everything from shoegaze, doom, alternative rock, and anything in between.  Dissolution Wave is available from Relapse Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg

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