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Guest Column: The View from the Back, Ep. V

Posted by - 12:32 PM on 01/12/12
For the fifth installment of his "View from the Back" column, Paul Shirley decides to tackle the task of putting into perspective the wonderful electronic sounds of Cloudkicker. Head to the replies to see his thoughts on Ben Sharp's latest release - not so much a review as it is a different style of insight into the album. Remember that you can contact Paul via his Twitter or send him an email.
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12:33 PM on 01/12/12
Thomas Nassiff
retired staff member
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The View from the Back, Ep. V - Cloudkicker When I listen to Cloudkicker, the electro-ambient-postrock project created by Ben Sharp, I think of Stephen King.

This doesn’t happen because Cloudkicker brings to mind possessed cars or demonic dogs or that terrifying clown from It.

No, I think of Stephen King because of the only Stephen King book I’ve ever read, which is his treatise on writing called, well, On Writing.

There are multiple “A-HA!” passages in On Writing. One of my favorites includes King’s description of what writing is, exactly. “Telepathy,” King states. He goes on to describe how, when a writer puts pen to paper, he is trying to communicate what is inside his brain to his readers – readers who are not in the room with him.

The writer could do that by writing, “Today is Monday and I’m sitting in a coffee shop and I’m staring at a beautiful girl’s ponytail and I’m feeling a little rotten about the fact that I don’t get along with my parents as well as I used to.” But such writing would be terribly dull. (Incidentally, the above example could have been lifted from an early blog.)

What’s more interesting is to use writing as a medium – a way to transport certain feelings to the reader without saying, verbatim, what those feelings are.

Music is telepathy too. I can’t tell you exactly what Ben Sharp was thinking about when he produced the masterful combination of guitar, electronics and rhythm that is Let Yourself Be Huge, the latest Cloudkicker album.

But I have a pretty good idea. There’s hope in there. And despair. Maybe a little anger. Probably some confusion. Definitely some tenderness. Exhaustion. Love. Discord. Peace.

Or maybe that’s only what I’ve taken from the experience of listening to Cloudkicker. Which is where Sharp’s work gets interesting. Transcendent, you might say. Or, if you’re not in the mood for such precious adjectives and would prefer that we stay within the bounds of reason, we’ll just call it great.

It’s one thing to tell a listener (or a reader, or a viewer) what you’re thinking. What’s even more impressive is to cause that listener/reader/viewer to understand what he’s thinking. Great art allows the user to bring his own experiences to bear on whatever he is consuming, be it something by Yves Tanguy, The Empire Strikes Back, or the five minutes and eight seconds of solace that is “You and Yours,” the best song from Let Yourself Be Huge.

With Cloudkicker, Ben Sharp makes this artistic leap. Every time I listen to a Cloudkicker album or EP (which is often, because there are several and because I can’t seem to make myself stop doing so), I discover something new about what I’m thinking or feeling.

In other words, Ben Sharp’s telepathy has been a spectacular success – a success even greater than Stephen King could have hoped for. Every time I listen to a Cloudkicker album, I feel that I’m reading Ben Sharp’s mind.

But even more important, I feel that he’s reading mine.

Check out Cloudkicker
here; most of Ben Sharp’s work is available at a name-your-price rate. I paid $5 each for Let Yourself Be Huge and Beacons.
01:05 PM on 01/12/12
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Well done Paul...I love Cloudkicker, and I think you put some of my sentiments on his most recent release more eloquently then when I try to get my friends to listen to this album.
02:19 PM on 01/12/12
This Is My Design
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dash64's Avatar
Very interesting read. Thanks for this!
02:59 PM on 01/12/12
Get Well Incentive
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hardpill's Avatar
Lost me at electronic.
05:01 PM on 01/12/12
Support local music!
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Jaimehere's Avatar
Loops was bad, Let Yourself Be Huge on the other hand was great.

Beacons still his best work
06:22 PM on 01/12/12
The Fool
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I've thrown $5 his way for all his albums but Loop. I just didn't get it. I'd have to say that his Portmanteau EP is easily my favorite. It's very cohesive and has a great mix of heavy and light moments.
09:34 PM on 01/12/12
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skrillzzz1109's Avatar
Cloudkicker has become my God in the past couple months. I "accidentally" discovered him after listening to a Russian Circles song on You Tube and within a week had become my favorite musician.

Too often I'll get drawn in to a band's song, and the riff or melody of the song is only temporary and I don't enjoy the rest of the song as much. What I love about Cloudkicker is that a single riff or melody will carry through the entire song with layers upon layers building off of it perfectly. I get so drawn into some of his songs because like this column says, it's almost telling a story.

I hope to God someday that he can find a way to perform these songs live. I would seriously pay $100 for that show.

BTW, "The Discovery" is the best song in the history of music.
09:33 PM on 01/13/12
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Dlemert's Avatar
Let Yourself Be Huge was ok. But I absolutely love Loop. It's just got a real spacey vibe to it. Subdued yet somehow epic.
06:58 PM on 04/23/12
Sean Rizzo
Can you see evidence of perfection?
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Lost me at electronic.
This. Seriously. LOL.

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