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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Wake A Week - 'Little Black Cloud'

Artist: A Wake A Week

Album: Little Black Cloud
Year: 2009
Label: Spectral Liquid
Genre: melodic ambient, minimal
Website: www.myspace.com/awakeaweek

I will note here that during the first few times of listening, I really hated this album. I’m noting this so perhaps you don’t make the same mistake. AWAW is a side project of the downtempo/idm act Detritus. That being as it is, I kept expecting ‘Little Black Cloud’ to kick in with a beat, and was thoroughly disappointed when it continuously failed to do so. After several listens I finally figured out that there are not going to be any beats no matter how much I wanted them, and I accepted it for what it was. At that point I finally begin to understand it.

Packaging: n/a
We received a promo copy with no packaging

Composition: 8/10
You’re standing on a tall wind-beaten cliff overlooking the endless ocean, pondering your last thoughts…and then you jump and begin the plummet to your death. ‘Little Black Cloud’ is what occurs during these last moments preceding your death. As you fall, you recall a series of moments from your life, though they are now presented in a stylized and dreamlike fashion. The tracks presented here are like clippings from ones life, presented with the heavy melancholy that one would feel shortly before one’s demise. The atmosphere is quite thick and doomy with sparse albeit beautiful & hauntingly dismal melodies that float in and out on the winds. As I said in the introduction, there are no beats on this album. None. Ever. But none are needed. At first I didn’t understand this mountainous work, but the more I listened to it the more I was able to discover the deep layers of passion and sorrow that have been etched into this.
‘Little Black Cloud’ tracks usually contain the following and not much more: droning sounds, a melodic instrument, a pad, and what sound like field recordings. The pads are lush but with a lifelike graininess. The melodies sometimes sound like pianos, and sometimes like stringed instruments. The field recordings which play on throughout ‘Little Black Cloud’ provide a firmly organic foundation upon with the melodies and drones build their kingdom of misery. Usually these recordings work really well and greatly compliment the somber melodies and strings, providing a warm lofi fuzz akin to the drones of nature on a rainy Saturday afternoon… however there are a few tracks like ‘I’m Always Writing Endings’ and ‘Your Rain isn’t My Rain’ where these recordings get the distortion treatment and become almost abrasive which only serves to annoy me and cause me to fast forward. Luckily this only seems to happen on those two tracks, and every other track is near flawless.

Production: 9/10
The production on this record is not ‘perfect’; it has a somewhat dirty & raspy feel to it, however this is perfect for the atmospheres portrayed by this album. It gives it a very authentic feel and almost primitive quality which greatly helps it to conjure up visions of frighteningly real landscapes.

Artistic Merit: 9/10
Well on the one hand this is completely different from Detritus, so it gets points for that. In addition, I would venture to say that this has the ability to be one of those timeless recordings that retain its essence and value over great chasms of time. It’s so deeply visceral and emotional that I can’t imagine the power of these tracks will fade with time.

Flow: 8/10
Flows as well as any collection of memories

Overall Rating: 8/10
If the phrase ‘highly depressing, melodic doom ambient’ sounds like something you would enjoy than you would do well by picking this up. It’s a fantastic album that very much feels like a cohesive work with tons of emotion and conviction behind it. However it is really quite minimal & depressing, which may mean that it doesn’t come off the shelf as much as other albums. But maybe that’s just me. A good investment nonetheless.

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