Two years after their debut release, Indiana band Cloakroom return with a more somber take on their established sludgy shoegaze sound.
Cloakroom burst into the scene at the beginning of 2015 with the release of their debut album Further Out which saw the respective members (specifically guitarist Doyle Martin and bassist Bobby Markos) throw a curveball on the first pitch, breaking from the repertoire of noodly angular emo that their prior projects showcased (Grown Ups/Native). Trading their capos for Sunn Model T’s, Further Out saw the band exploring spacey, fuzzy rock with elements of noise and sludge. A formula that while not entirely groundbreaking, was executed soundly enough to put the band on many people’s radars, landing them support slots on tours with established bands like Nothing and Russian Circles.
Fast forward two years after their debut release, Cloakroom return with a more somber take on their established sludgy shoegaze sound. Time Well begins with “Gone but Not Entirely” which opens with a ostinato drum beat that gives way to a dreamy sounding guitar which shows a little bit of its flair and fuzz, but just as suddenly as the guitars come in, they cut out and showcase a deeper sounding vocal coming from Doyle Martin. The track carries at a pace that will quickly become familiar as a lot of this full-length seems to follow the lead of this opening track in its crawling loud/soft/loud dynamic.
At the end of the song we see a drum sample give way to one of the strongest tracks on the album, “Big World,” which features the catchiest chorus on the record. This track, along with standout “Seedless Star,” find their strengths in an overdriven, distorted bass riff that is relentless in its attack and absolutely MASSIVE sounding. I think they intentionally included this sound element in several tracks on this record as an indebted nod to post-metal bands like Isis, Russian Circles and Cult of Luna.
The album isn’t without its low moments as the track “Hymnal” is a slug paced cover of church classic “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord).” This song appears out of nowhere, does nothing interesting with the source material and ends just as spectacularly as it began. While this acknowledgement of the writer’s childhood may be of importance to the creator, it lands as little more than filler on the tracklist.
The album ends on an experimental note as the second to last track “52hz Whale” sees Cloakroom exploring a droning riff. The song begins with a familiar delay/reverb-heavy guitar sound that builds and builds into an increasingly distorted crescendo which sets the record up for “The Passenger”—a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Pedro The Lion record with its stripped down approach. We see this song evolve and transition into a hybrid sample/ostinato guitar riff that winds down until we are only left with the electronic sample to end the album.
Time Well finds its strengths and weaknesses in familiar territory; in amplifying the somber mood via building an unease through their Codeine-like pace and allowing the songs to be carried by the strengths of the riffs without hiding in the noise of guitar effects like many of their contemporaries do, Cloakroom rewards the returning listener with a deeper, more nuanced record… However, this pace makes it rather hard to sit down and digest the album as a first time listener. The tracks (intentionally) create a ‘Time Well‘ where you get lost in the nocturnal mood the band so relentlessly puts down, and this record may find itself being background noise to the superficial listener.