‘Subsume’ is the latest LP from Ohio Native Ben Sharpe, who releases his music under the Cloudkicker moniker.
For those new to the name, Ben produces all his music from home and releases it for free under a creative commons licence. He’s been active since 2007 and has been making waves since then with a slew of instrumental releases, constantly surprising listeners due to his talent as both a musician and producer. His latest effort, ‘Subsume’, is a magnum opus that represents the growth of a highly determined and independent grass-roots musician.
Subsume is a collection of four extended compositions that melt into each other. Therefore, the record is best listened to from start to finish in order to fully absorb everything it has to offer. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone India, Sharpe mused about his love of travel and the idea of journeying. And this is exactly what the album is: A journey. There are changes in mood, shades of darkness and light, a myriad of tempos and styles. Without becoming convoluted, Subsume encompasses the mind of a traveler and the experiences of its creator. The magic is in the way he communicates these ideas.
Instrumentally, Subsume is highly polished and thoughtful. Sharpe’s influences can be heard in the way he phrases drum patterns – there are a whole bunch of syncopated rhythms to be found here. Speedy, complex double-bass patterns make every track dynamic and help to distance the rhythm section from predictability. Accents are dropped in unconventional time slots à la Meshuggah to create intricate patterns. The effect is paradoxically attention grabbing yet hypnotic at the same time.
A number of interesting guitar tones are riddled across the record as well. Most commonly heard is a distorted guitar tuned to drop A to provide an unequivically thick low-end, although there are plenty of brighter, clearer tones to be heard as well. Heavy sections often incorporate a traditional palm-muted attack to match the double-bass pedals patterns, although these are often accompanied by an underlaying drone or melody from a second or third guitar. This layering technique is constantly expanded on with a bunch of cool techniques Sharpe has at disposal, and it all melts together to become a meticulously fascinating wall of sound. While the distorted sections are still very clear and listenable, an extraordinarily fuzz-filled tone creeps up for the final few minutes of the album in anthemic style.
Gentler melodic passages include some slower, almost sleepy-sounding guitar harmonies that add to the hypnotic effect of the album. The note choice in these sections are very thoughtful, and they provide a breath of air in-between more crunchy sections of the album. While not as audible as the 6 string – bass work compliments the guitar-driven riffs and provides even more low-end for a heavier kick when summoned.
The instruments all speak for themselves, but it’s the careful marriage of tones and textures to be heard on Subsume that’s truly mesmerizing. The end result is a uniquely humble listening experience . All fans of metal and progressive music in general should seek this out. Cloudkicker’s website can be found here.