Artist: The Winter Coats
Title: A Black Cloud Between You and the Sun
Label: Stainless Manchu Music
Genre: Experimental rock
Before the CD arrived in the mail, I was intrigued by this album. Firstly, this is the band’s debut album. Secondly, it was inspired and based on the book The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle, an astrophysicist (this is Hoyle’s only work of fiction, I believe). Thirdly, it’s a genre that doesn’t get explored enough on this blog.
The first track opens and I’m greeted by the harmonious growling of guitars. This is interwoven with dreamy electronic elements and various affects with a fluttery backbeat. The tone is dark but not so dark that you’re unable to see. This works well to set things up for the rest of the album.
Track two: “There’s Blood at the End of the Tunnel” starts off much like the first track, but darts into the darkness in spots, arranging a more haunting vibe than what the previous track had created. The guitar and its effects are amazing, creating a warm, dark and vibrating atmosphere. Mentally, the world the Black Cloud is enshrouding is coming to form. This is made complete with the chirps and chimes from the synth as it shimmers in the background.
So, two tracks in and I am liking what I’m hearing. The experimental rock elements are structured deftly and the blending of darker ambient bits makes this just awesome. The theme is coming together nicely. Track three, “Charlie Lake,” sounds a bit more conventional as a song. Granted, each track thus far has been instrumental. This piece has defined chords and progressions and reminds me a bit of maybe early Dreamend, or a dark instrumental from Primal Scream’s angrier moments.
The next few tracks toy a little in different directions. There are some minor punk and progressive elements added to the guitar works in spots, giving some different emotions and ideas to be pondered over. Things get darker on “Duck, You Sucker,” which gives it a more post rock edge, definitely diving back into the wilder realms of experimentalism. It’s noisier, which certainly adds to the sinister and more desperate moments of the story.
The band does a good job at keeping the overall style fairly uniform throughout the album. Guitar effects and percussion are somewhat similar from track to track, at times making this feel like one long instrumental rock opera of sorts. Some tracks do have a more improvised feel, but that adds to the album, and in a way, ties it in with the theme. In a world that’s being faced with some sentient space cloud that incidentally blots out the sunlight and creates mass death due to starvation, it would be safe to assume that there’d be a lot of fear and uncertainty, and your survival would depend on spur of the moment acts. Hence, the improvisation really helps bring this point home.
The later tracks make gentle leaps from darker moments to hazy moments. This brings a fairly acidic feel to the mix. I guess this is what it would feel like to be in the vapors of the space cloud. At times it sounds like we’re alongside the band, held up in some vacant building, hiding from the chaos outside. The music becomes our escape.
Final thoughts? I know for some folks, the idea of a concept or themed album can be offsetting. Don’t let that idea intimidate you. This album is a good example of how a concept album should be done. It works well at capturing the emotions and/or the mental pictures that one might see when reading the book that this album was based on. The instrumentation, effects, textures and styles are solid through this entire recording and do not falter. It’s hazy, thick and strangely captivating.
4.6 out of 5.
Scope out the band and the album here: