Lowcloudcover used to be a very different band. Quite literally, I mean; only one original member remains, frontman and songwriter Greg Russell. Back in 2003, they were a trio, churning out paradoxically deafening and dreamy shoegazer rock. Since then, however, the lineup has shifted around, currently at a four piece, with a new bass player and drummer. And, perhaps in a Spinal Tap-like twist of fate, as of the time of this review, the band has since found a new drummer.
Ongoing roster shifts aside, the sound of Separation Anxiety clearly reflects a transformation within the band. As personnel have come and gone, one could only assume that the sound would evolve as well, and it has. No longer as soupy or drenched in effects, Lowcloudcover has sloughed off the Ride and My Bloody Valentine-isms in favor of a slinky, artier sound reminiscent of Blonde Redhead or Unwound. Fluid, exotic guitar riffs now take the place of massive walls of feedback and distortion. One might even say that the band has more of a mathematical sensibility to their instrumental interplay, but they’re by no means getting Don Caballero on us. The band members merely display a better technical skill to playing their instruments than most musicians of their ilk, thus providing a listen with more depth than your typical post-punk album.
Mood-wise, Separation Anxiety is still as unsettling as the band’s prior release, I Took a Second Too Long, best displayed in the menacing “Indecision.” With serrated riffs, horror movie organ and the lyrical promise, “this will haunt you,” Lowcloudcover certainly hasn’t shied away from their dark side. Though, if I’m hearing this right, Russell seems to be singing “I’ll be fucking every night” on “O.C.D.” I can’t help but think there should be some jeep beats behind a lyric like that, but maybe that’s my own hang-up. Elsewhere, subtler layers of effects find their way into the mix, as in the abrasive opener “Skeleton Key.” “Chemotaxis” employs a bell-like series of guitar harmonics, chiming like a buoy, while “Two Red Stars” takes on harsher riffs, easily rocking the hardest here.
Forging a new path with a subtler sound, yet one with much depth, Lowcloudcover have done what so few bands attempt: progress. With one foot firmly in the noisy soup of yore and one taking a step toward artier and less pummeling tendencies, the group is now in a very melodically interesting place, one which they should inhabit for a while, before moving on to the next great sonic plateau.
Blonde Redhead – Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons
Unwound – Challenge For a Civilized Society
Engine Down – Demure