Clouds | Heavy The Eclipse
Electric Deluxe (3xLP/DL)
The Electric Deluxe label, run by Speedy J, has been on fire lately. It released one of my favourite techno records of 2018, the slow-burning assault by JK Flesh. This grinding, idiosyncratic take on dance floor music is evident on this new album by Scottish duo Clouds, who return to the label.
Heavy The Eclipse is a collection that spans a wide range of styles, incorporating breakbeats, jungle riffs, abstracted techno and a healthy amount of sample mangling. It’s a really manic approach, and the variety pays of on the album format. Maximal and playful, it brings back memories of the 90s when artists felt free to express themselves as they explored technology and technique. There’s something really quite ecstatic at times when rave synths gleam over crunched beats and stretched vocal samples, and the BPMs escalate.
The release is a concept album representing a dystopian Glasgow 400 years into the future, a city that has run to waste and is now a post-industrial lawless society. This dark imagery is reflected in the blackened beats and industrial noisescapes through the album. Album opener, Neurealm «After The Fall», introduces us to battling laser fire and disembodied voices, a glitched-out intro named after the imaginary German conglomerate which is part of the concept’s mythology. Clubber’s Guide To Wreaking Havoc is a thunderous techno track reveling in its maximal assault, as arpeggiated synths rain down on a pounding beat, one of the most upfront dance tracks here. I imagine a darkened room lit only by strobes cutting through dry ice as this track blows up the dance floor.
Dark Leviathan Krew experiments with ambience and shattered beats, the ghostly vocals flitting in and out of earshot and is reminiscent of the golden days of mid-90s drum n bass. Beats that shake floors, but are also drenched in a weird paranoia. The BPMs are accelerated on Skulcoast as classic breaks are resampled and reprocessed into a futuristic vision, yet retaining a distinctly old skool flavor.
Strong Outside «» Onslaught Ash Krew sees a reduction in speed, a lurching beat taking its time as fizzing acid lines buzz in the background. One of the album’s most satisfying basslines features on this track, a low growl that holds the whole thing together. On Nachtstorm Hardcore, the BPMs are put into overdrive again, but in an off-kilter way that throws the track into a state of unbalance as looped vocals and kicks reach for gabber-levels of intensity. As the album winds down to a close, the final track, Skyline «Àrdkaserne To Fantazia», shows its hardcore roots in its title. But the actual audio on this last offering is a heavily mangled affair, the original samples buried deep under layers of processed sounds and atmospheres, the end of which is a distorted version of rave euphoria that remains ecstatic despite the digital signal processing.
With this album, Clouds have managed to create something modern, yet rooted in the past. Its nod to the day-glo history of rave is steeped in nostalgia, yet plays with far-fetched notions of the distant future. Maybe in that dystopian Glasgow, the sounds of hardcore have come full circle and been embraced as the soundtrack to a sci-fi otherworld.