It’s been a real fun ride watching the continued evolution of Cloud Nothings over the past few years. I started keeping my eye on the band back when it was still a weekend project of Dylan Baldi, having fortuitously downloaded the initial bedroom recordings of Turning On on a whim. Baldi’s strengths had been his great melodic sensibilities and a knack for strong hooks, so few would have expected the direction that he took with the Steve Albini-produced Attack on Memory, which added a healthy dose of grit and bitterness to the mix. Attack on Memory was an often great album that was a significant step forward for the band, even after taking some of its unevenness into consideration. The question was then what direction the band would take next.
Here and Nowhere Else sees Cloud Nothings increasing the aggression and upping the angst even more, and the result is a voracious blast of pure intensity that doesn’t let up over the course of its half-hour runtime. However, some of the ambition found on Attack on Memory, which can partially be explained by Baldi pulling double duty and handling both rhythm and lead guitar parts. The songs don’t have the same obvious surface complexity as those on Attack on Memory, though that’s not necessarily true from a structural songwriting standpoint, as several tracks venture into unexpected directions. The real strength of the album is that it’s clear that the band has become an even more cohesive unit during the intervening years of touring. There are several nice melodic basslines that snake their way throughout the album and Jayson Gercyz’s drumming is a real standout from front to back, as he is able to change tempos at the drop of a hat as well as match the mood with subtle dynamic touches. Listen in “Psychic Trauma” to how seamlessly Gercyz switches from a steady groove to a raucous attack, culminating in an absolutely ferocious final climax.
There is no equivalent to the Wipers’-influenced “Wasted Days” on Here and Nowhere Else, but “Pattern Walks” comes close. It’s a nice touch that the chorus benefits from the purposefully lo-fi mix that can have the listener mistaking the title for “padded walls”, giving an extra edge to the song. It devolves into a glorious mess, with swirls of keyboards, but it lacks the intricate guitar lines, the groovy solo section, and the perfect shout-along of “I thought I would be more than this” from “Wasted Days”. The album does end on a high note with the excellent “I’m Not Part of Me”, which proves the perfect bridge of the early bedroom days of the band and the new aggro-punk leanings of the current incarnation.