Thursday, May 19, 2011

RADIATOR REVIEWS: Chief Thundercloud - June Street

Chief Thundercloud is the 6 year and running solo project of Craig Currie. Chief has built his musical legacy on ear-blistering walls of noise, broken and out of tune guitar chords, malfunctioning equipment, prescient tape hiss and delicately fragile vocal melodies that reach beyond the highest Thom Yorke castrato falsetto. There is a inescapable "weirdo" sensibility to Currie music and that label will most likely follow him for better or worse. Especially when the track that has you tearing up from the fragile beauty of the vocals can be the same track to have you desperately reaching for the volume knob to turn it down in the matter of seconds. With June Street, Chief Thundercloud has made a concerted effort to be more listenable and accessible to those outside of the noise music spectrum. Don't get me wrong it is still noisy as hell. The heavy use of dissonance gives the album an underlying tension, which is released periodically to great effect. There is still and an epic disparity between the quiet parts of the music, which are nearly inaudible besides the tape hiss, to the unlimited walls of noise pouring like tropical showers from broken electronic circuits, but this time around, you can hear it better, Its much easier to separate the instruments and most importantly is the way this dynamic is used thoughtfully. Side A is dedicated to original songs and Side B is 30 or so minutes of covers. The original material here ranks among the best of Curries Career. Well written songs interweave and overlap with some of the more interesting soundscapes and noise experiments in Curries arsenal. "Fall Asleep Underwater" treads in freak folk territory. The Album is pretty cohesive as well. It all sounds very watery, like the recordings were done underwater or in some cases (particular on "swimming") while gargling or whilst dreaming. Its thick, muddy, loaded with wet reverb, and its definitely got viscosity. Percussive additions pop like bubbles, guitar lines drip out of strings into dirty puddles and noise textures sop like sponges in sudsy bathwater. Certain songs like "Focus on The Pain" and "Not Underwater" have such a distinctly audible texture it evokes a sort of synesthesia in my brain where i want to reach out and feel the tracks. Flanged-out guitar noise ripples and washes its way to shore where you gasp for breath from underneath a salty wave blanket with seaweed behind your ears and dirt in your skin crevices. Side B in my opinion is just cake. Sort of a bonus side to the full album contained on Side A which by itself is more expansive than any other Chief album. At 60 minutes this plays like a double LP. Its also more cohesive than any Chief album to date, more of a complete concept and more musical to top it off. Surely some people will not be able to get past the "terrible" quality and harsh, gritty lo-fi exterior that June Street seems caked in, but if you are able to you will find there is a lot there to enjoy underneath the surface. 9.2

reviewed by Mohamed El-Darwish RADIATOR COLLECTIVE 2011

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