Music Reviews

In Our Bleak Present, Crack Cloud’s PAIN OLYMPICS Represents an Exciting Future

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Genre: Post-Post-Punk

Favorite Tracks: “Somethings Gotta Give,” “The Next Fix,” “Favour Your Fortune,” “Ouster Stew,” “Tunnel Vision,” “Angel Dust (Eternal Peace)”

Whether or not the reality we currently inhabit is dystopian remains up in the air, but it is no question that at this point in 2020 we are truly living in “the future.” Much of the art released in the past 18 months confirms this assumption. Last night I sat on my couch and had a nice time jamming out with my friends to a popular Arca song that has more in common with Merzbow than it does with the conventions of pop music as we understood them two years ago. Artists like 100 gecs and SOPHIE have miraculously become household names even though the music they are so popular for embraces historically dissonant and terrifying aesthetics. Rock music, too, is undergoing a strange and inexplicable redefinition. Crack Cloud, while still flying silently under the radar for most listeners, are discretely innovating guitar-driven music for a genre averse to a new world. Although their post-post-punk contemporaries like Black Country New Road, Model/Actriz, and black midi have all successfully reached broader fanbases, Crack Cloud began releasing music roughly a year before their attitude was in line with a burgeoning scene.

Crack Cloud is one of the most immediately beloved artists I have encountered in my time as a music nerd. While their most popular song on Spotify, “Drab Measure,” may have an appallingly low play count of less than 700,000 listens, every bona fide music obsessive I know seems to have independently stumbled upon and subsequently fallen in love with the Vancouver multimedia collective’s artistic drug rehabilitation project. While Crack Cloud’s conceptualization as a distraction from and remedy for substance abuse is the reason the group amassed a small army’s worth of members, their grimy upbringing never feels like a sob story or a distraction from their visionary aptitude. The crew instead exists at a singular and stimulating intersection between anonymity, personality, and baffling prowess.

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On their debut, PAIN OLYMPICS, Crack Cloud carry on the traditions of Canadian indie artists while also breaking out of the mould that their forebears cast. The guttural pulse of “Somethings Gotta Give” recalls the work of Ought, were prolific frontman Tim Darcy forced to write music under extremely agitated circumstances. The expansive instrumentation and evolution of “Bastard Basket” harkens FUNERAL-era Arcade Fire in its maximalist sentiment. Overall, Crack Cloud’s spirit is more in line with the aforementioned Montreal behemoth’s than it is with any other artist. Crack Cloud’s ability to meld unconventional instrument choices with world-influenced rhythms evokes Arcade Fire’s similar ability to put an orchestra in an indie song without an impending shit show.

Yet while the music on PAIN OLYMPICS dwells within a niche, it still defies definition at every turn. The wonderfully dizzying result of the collective’s genre-bending is best exemplified on the single “The Next Fix”, which somehow lilts from woozy reggaeton to soaring post-opera in just over three minutes. Crack Cloud’s occasionally operatic vocal arrangements beam through again on the closing track “Angel Dust (Eternal Peace)” which somehow recalls ambient auteur Tim Hecker while also showcasing a Hendrix-at-Woodstock style guitar solo. In the course of just 29 minutes Crack Cloud cruise through more styles than the majority of artists are able to touch on in a 10-year career.

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The societal backdrop for the release of PAIN OLYMPICS is one that rejects any prediction and all expectation. Because of the abnormality humankind has been forced to confront, I have noticed the tastes of those in my orbit increasingly gravitating towards experimentation and dissonance. PAIN OLYMPICS might sound like it was conceived by aliens, but the collective’s vehemence comes straight out of the same cruddy warehouses and DIY spaces that birthed eternal classics by Television, Swans, and Suicide. In two years, I predict that the majority of popular music will sound nothing like anything we’ve heard before, and Crack Cloud have emerged as pioneers of the radicalization and repurposing of the rock band lineup as we know it.

Ted Davis
Ted Davis is a writer, musician, and DJ from Virginia currently living in Northeast Los Angeles. He has put out work with the band Helanovela and on his own as DJ STEPDAD and Silk Gloves. He has performed with a number of artists including Dumbo Gets Mad and Blondie (long story).

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