“If you don’t write a good enough song in this universe, you run the risk of being forgotten and lose the opportunity to return as a meaningful form of life.”
This is Cloakroom guitarist-vocalist Doyle Martin explaining the sci-fi conceit of his band’s latest full-length, Dissolution Wave. In it, a force called the Dissolution Wave has wiped out Earth’s collective art history, leaving in its place a world-threatening vacuum in space. An asteroid miner is tasked with filling the void with new music to keep the Earth rotating on its axis. It’s a stakes-is-high scenario, but behind the fiction lays a more grounded idea: art keeps us going, even through the darkest days. Cloakroom’s third album warns of a doomsday approaching, yet the music that came out of the band—or, if you will, the asteroid miner—leans towards an infectious, distortion-caked, space rock optimism.
As on their earlier work, Cloakroom—currently comprising Martin, bassist Bobby Markos, and drummer Tim Remis—push serious air via mammoth beats and tube-rupturing amp work. Opener “Lost Meaning,” for instance, is an overwhelmingly luscious fracas of slow-mo drums, bass fuzz, and Martin’s teal-tinted guitar lasering. But even when the act hunker down into the record’s sludgiest moments (see interstellar gloom-gaze hybrid “Fear of Being Fixed”), Martin’s angelic vocals pull you back from the abyss. Then there’s “A Force at Play,” a compact, outlier pop anthem that conjures late period Pavement before Martin carves out a trem-bar warped guitar solo.
Dissolution Wave has been described by the band as “space-western,” which tracks. On the one hand, the trio harness an effects-heavy style that builds off the space rock journeying of Hum (that band’s Matt Talbott contributed piano and loops to Dissolution Wave, which was also recorded at his Earth Analog studio in Champaign, IL), yet strip away the sonic aesthetic of late album shuffle “Doubts” and you’ll discover a low-key C&W framework (“Cloakroom songs are written on acoustic guitars,” Markos recently told Northern Transmissions. “Before we take them to amplifiers, if you were to throw a mic on them it would sound like Townes Van Zandt”). And while Martin makes reference to meteorites and star-clusters throughout Dissolution Wave, on the closing “Dissembler,” the asteroid miner personifies himself as “a cactus on a tame and warming world,” so there’s likewise a kind of range-roving genre blurring in the lyrics.
The question of whether or not a song can save the world has been asked in sci-fi before—that’s, you know, the Bill & Ted franchise in a nutshell—but Cloakroom’s gorgeously distorted Dissolution Wave is a welcomed addition to the canon. If these songs were to be our last line of defense, we may actually be able to stave off oblivion. No pressure, though.
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