Gushing Cloud, ‘Beat Wings in Vain’

Posted by on November 4, 2013


Intangible Cat, 5/31/13

In the post-DJ Shadow garden of music that we live in, bedroom samplo-philes and audio-snipping perfectionists have bloomed. Chicago collage project Gushing Cloud culls from a trove of different sources for Beat Wings in Vain, integrating noise, jazz, ambient, funk and trip-hop. On the title track, a slow ambient backbone takes the opportunity to space out before hovering piano chords cycle through a jazzy progression and reversed horns gargle. The rug is pulled out, shaken about, and sewn back to hang on the listener’s bicep. At times, Beat Wings in Vain morphs, becoming reminiscent of High Wolf‘s twisted, kaleidoscopic fun house, the energetic paranoia of Gonjasufi, or even the murky amalgam jams by KWJAZ. But it always shifts shape into something inverted and unexpected

Gus Kumo released Prism Shelter EPhis début under the Gushing Cloud moniker, on Intangible Cat in 2010. Those songs developed after years of fiddling on the home computer, while he played guitar in the lo-fi outsider band Rebekah’s Tape. Since 2010, he’s honed his focus on Gushing Cloud, spending time on the technical craft, incorporating new sampling techniques, paying dues while kneeling to the alters of Boards of Canada and Flying Lotus, and having a hell of a lot of fun experimenting.

And in that time Gushing Cloud built up confidence. If the down and dirty beats don’t pronounce the sentiment directly, Kumo shows it in the way he masterfully fills every inch of breathable space with percussion. Some guitarists have a huge presence (with or without effects) and play a dense wall of sound that stands in for three or four separate players. Gushing Cloud has that percussive density and he is exceptional. On “Witness,” a thudding, hypnotic, pulse meets lo-fi, acoustic guitar loops and syncopated, worked-over saxophone snippets to conjure some sort of Do Make Say Think chill, cerebral, trans-genre beauty. The rhythm is the centerpiece on “Witness” (and throughout the album), and the refined attention to detail is especially impressive because not all of the songs convey bash out frenetic, but a fluid range of moods.

The music is heady in the sense that it follows a deliberately erratic path, not in the sense that it seeks enlightened, highfalutin academic principles. It’s danceable because the rhythms so relentlessly thump; intricate polyrhythms ember beneath the massive beats, and with all the spaced-out moments and blaring drones, I’d say it’s certainly suited for frantic solo living room breakdowns and self-exorcisms, followed by passing out on the carpet. Rinse. Repeat.

Perhaps his contemporaries take their sound very seriously. It’s about stoniness, repetition, phasers, drifting away, and envelopment. Inducing an effect. To me it seems Kumo is going for something participatory. He’s jerking the listeners along unpredictable twists and lurches for a process; a thoughtful dialogue. Regardless if the listener enjoys every moment, he or she has to commit to the journey and there’s a light-hearted feel to this embrace of stylistic exploration.

It is a little bit overwhelming the way he waffles between styles within thirty seconds of the same song, or even simultaneously. At times it can be dizzying, or a sensory avalanche on the droning, dubby, Forest Swords funk of “Return to Hunger.” At times it can be ass-shakingly delightful, like the deep, dark, reverberating strut of “Prison Swelter.” And at times it can be head-scratchingly thrilling; take the back half of “Gesturing Stream,” which features jazz piano chords sparsely dropped in over the heavy, baby-making breakdown, with horns smattered across the top – left field bizzaro brilliance, and it feels like peering over a cliff at great unknown wilderness. I would never expect to be taken to that place.

With “Dirt Beam,” we are introduced to a staccato, multi-layered Casio horn chug that contrasts with an Eastern, chiming guitar (or is it keyboard?) riff. By the time we can mentally adjust to the contrast and slightly off-kilter guitar/key tones, Kumo launches into a frenetic The Name of this Band Is Talking Heads-like world-funk groove, while spaced-out squiggly synths lurch in all directions. And before we can even figure out what’s happening, the song has pivoted eight more head-spinning times, mixing all the UFO-isms, flickering trumpets, and tapestry of samples into a soaking, twisted, frenzy before ebbing back toward calm. It’s surely a representative end to a chaotically joyful listen.