Lowcloudcover – Separation Anxiety

Lowcloudcover
Separation Anxiety

Lowcloudcover’s modus operandi involves taking minor-key melodies, putting them on top of solid backbeats, adding in some punctuated slithering basslines, and dropping in lyrics that convey anxiety and alienation. This way of writing permeates Separation Anxiety to a track.

There’s a consistency across the CD that gives it a unified feel, as though each song almost continues from where its predecessor left off. The band describes its sound as “like black paint pouring straight from the can,” and I’d have to agree. I’d add only that the paint sometimes comes out in drips, sometimes flows, but it never gushes or splatters. That is, it’s controlled and focused; the band never explodes into cathartic feedback or instrument pounding as would be expected in today’s music. Instead, the tension just simmers. Imagine a lighted fuse drawing closer and closer to a bomb but never quite reaching it.

Sometimes the band builds its tension through dischordant guitars or lurching, emphatic drumming. Other times, the bass will syncopate the sound, where things sound a little disquieting and you’re not sure just why. “Indecision,” for instance, begins with some tribal, tom-based drumming before the bass comes in to follow along. The guitar then joins in with lines that feel right for the song even though there’s a disquieting air to them. The song breaks into a running bassline and probably the most energetic passage on the CD. The bridge sees the drums moving from the straight beats of the verses and choruses back into tom-driven rolls. The finale of the song features only the drums, after the band has come about as close to cathartic release as it’s going to get on Separation Anxiety.

“O.C.D.” brings the band back to the near-genius of the excellent “Menace” (from its previous release). “O.C.D.” has that same kind of angst to it, but this time around Lowcloudcover has upped the tempo and drawn things out a bit more. The lyrics are few, but there is some haunting background singing of “ooohs” to fill out the sound. Following “O.C.D.” is “Dead Quiet,” where there are no drums at all, and in fact no instruments at all at the end (just samples from what sounds like a playground or something).

“Skeleton Key” opens with a bassline that might have come off an early Wire album. Eventually in the background there comes in a guitar alternating between just a few notes that basically sustains itself throughout the entire rest of the song (e-bow? massive compression? not sure). Its presence, though almost unnoticeable at times because it changes so little, adds a lot to the atmosphere of the sound, as you pick up on once it goes away.

The title track, the longest song here at seven and a half minutes, takes you through all kinds of changes while it plays itself out. Combining the same darkness and dissolution you’ve heard in the earlier tracks, this album closer might be aiming for a kind of epic feel. At one point, the drums build to a cymbal-driven intensity, which is followed by a kind of mathy 3/4 time signature, followed by a Sonic Youth-ish sequence (with, of all things, a piano/keyboard melody running in the background). This is definitely music for a rainy day, but you might long to see the sun again after experiencing Separation Anxiety.