[Click play above to stream ‘Beyond the Electric Sun’ from Cloud Catcher’s Trails of Kosmik Dust. Album is out in March 2017 on Totem Cat Records. Tour dates announced at the bottom of this post.]
If you want to make an album, go on tour. That’s what Denver trio Cloud Catcher did to get ready to record their second offering. Their plan was to take to the road, get themselves in peak form, and then hit the studio to record as live as possible with Slow Season‘s Cody Tarbell at the helm. Listening to the raw scorch of Trails of Kosmic Dust — also their first release through Totem Cat Records — it would be difficult to say the tactic was anything other than a complete success. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), skillfully blended progressive instrumental performance and classic-style heavy songwriting, but I don’t think there’s a level on which Trails of Kosmic Dust doesn’t bring Cloud Catcher‘s presentation to another level entirely.
Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Rory Rummings, bassist/vocalist Kam Wentworth and drummer Jared Soloman Handman, they benefit from the classic power trio construction in how the bass and drums hold down the boogie of a cut like “Celestial Empress” so that Rummings can embark on dizzying runs up and down the fretboard, but even when Cloud Catcher take a rare moment to slow their Atomic Bitchwaxian grooving onslaught, as on the well-placed “Dimensional Interlude” that would seem to finish side A or first half of the penultimate instrumental on side B, “Super Acid Magick,” Trails of Kosmic Dust isn’t necessarily about the work of one player or another more than the affect of the three-piece as a unit. They grant that some overdubs took place, and given some of the layering of feedback and leads I believe it, but one can hear in the basic underlying tracks how righteously tight they’ve become in such a short time. Across the span of eight tracks/39 minutes, they sound hungry, and mean, and perhaps scariest of all, like they’re still growing.
There may or may not be a consistent narrative taking place through the material, but it’s safe to say the lyrics are taking listeners on an adventure one way or the other, and though there are moments of spaced-out flourish even in a cut like “Beyond the Electric Sun” — the longest inclusion at just over seven minutes, with a jammy vibe and some thrilling start-stop moments in its second half before it returns to sprinting circles around the audience — perhaps the most psychedelic aspect of Trails of Kosmic Dust are the words. They come through clearly and mostly raw, playing to the live feel, from Rummings and Wentworth, at times reminiscent of Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, as on “Righteous Ruler” or the ultra-Sabbathian boogie blues of “Visions” that leads off side B, and introduce characters like the “Astral Warlord” and “Celestial Empress” before embarking “Beyond the Electric Sun” and traveling through the “Dimensional Interlude” to see “Visions” in “Trails of Kosmic Dust” made from “Super Acid Magick” by a “Righteous Ruler.” That they’d tie “Righteous Ruler” at the end back to the opening duo — each of which would also seem to refer to a leader or monarch of one sort or other — is telling when it comes to a deceptive mindfulness in their structuring and processes.
It’s not all just chaos and boogie, in other words. There’s thought put into it, which is part of why one feels comfortable considering Trails of Kosmic Dust a progressive work. But the pummel-pummel-pummel impression the record makes through its opening salvo in “Astral Warlord,” “Celestial Empress” and “Beyond the Electric Sun” isn’t to be understated either. Those three tracks, one after another, would be almost impossibly frenetic were it not for their catchy hooks allowing for something to grab onto. Organic tones and shuffle are the basis for what makes a cut like “Celestial Empress” work — specific mention should be made of Wentworth‘s handling the low end, both in terms of what he’s playing either following the guitar or not and how it sounds — and Cloud Catcher demonstrate plainly the dynamic they’ve built from those elements before giving the peaceful minute of “Dimensional Interlude” as a means to transition into the expansion that side B brings.
And brings quickly. A change in vocals (I think) brings Wentworth to the fore for the shorter and more straightforward track, clean in tone and plainly playing toward earliest Sabbath in the patterning of lyrics and overall feel. Way more Black Sabbath than Master of Reality, “Visions” gives way to the title-track via a cymbal wash and “Trails of Kosmic Dust” calls back to the boogie thrust of side A in its construction early, but fluidly shifts in its midsection to a spacious and more open vibe. It’s still tense with the progression of Handman‘s drums under layers of Rummings‘ guitar, but hinting maybe at a patience in development within their approach that might come more to fruition on subsequent outings. Also welcome is the instrumental return to the bouncing chorus they insert at the end, so that “Trails of Kosmic Dust” doesn’t simply jam itself into oblivion, but highlights a sense of songwriting as well, making it all the more fitting that the album bears its name.
Nascent patience might be a factor early in “Super Acid Magick” as well. There are moments on Trails of Kosmic Dust when it sounds like the psychedelia is asserting itself as a setup for the band to use as a launch point, and “Super Acid Magick” directly recalls Death Alley‘s “Supernatural Predator” on a shorter scale in how it solidifies into a full-throttle thrust and continues to move outward from there. Another well-positioned instrumental, it changes up expectation on the part of the listener going into the finale, expands the palette of the record overall and reinforces the live feel while also providing a direct bleed into the initial nodding riff that introduces “Righteous Ruler,” a bluesy lead line from Rummings met by Wentworth‘s foundation of tone and rolling drums from Handman as it gradually builds speed before kicking into the verse line after a minute or so.
The closer is less a summary of Trails of Kosmic Dust on the whole than one might expect, but it does bring to mind a lot of what works well about it, whether that’s the cyclical feel of its hook, the on-a-dime shifts in tempo and rhythm or the final instrumental push that — this time — leads Cloud Catcher all the way out with no return, getting slower until finally a cymbal wash and noise leads to a last crash and cold finish. Show’s over, folks. They put on a hell of a set, and as noted above, there are ways in which Cloud Catcher, who got together in 2013, still feel like a growing band. Though their urgency often serves them well, I’ll be interested to hear next time out how the balance shifts between that and the more liquefied aspects in some of these tracks shifts, and what influences will emerge as they continue to tour. Ultimately though, one of the most encouraging results on Trails of Kosmic Dust is that Cloud Catcher come across as a band actively, consciously involved in that evolutionary process. It wasn’t happenstance that they went right from doing shows to the studio, and that kind of willful creative drive will only serve them well as they move forward from here.
Cloud Catcher 2017 Midwest Tour:
^Saturday March 11th Denver, CO HI-DIVE^
^Sunday March 12th Colorado Springs, FLUX CAPACITOR^
^Monday March 13th Santa Fe, NM THE UNDERGROUND AT EVANGELO’S^
^Tuesday March 14th Ft. Worth, TX The Grotto^
^Wednesday March 15th Austin, TX SXSW^
Thursday March 16th Austin, TX SXSW
Friday March 17th Austin, TX SXSW
^Saturday March 18th San Antonio, TX FAUST TAVERN^
Sunday March 19th Houston, TX SATELLITE BAR
Monday March 20th Texarkana, TX THE ARROW BAR
Tuesday March 21st Memphis, TN BUCANEER LOUNGE
Wednesday March 22nd Columbus, OH HOUSE SHOW
*Thursday March 23rd Ft. Wayne, IN BRASS RAIL*
*Friday March 24th Detroit, MI SMALL’S*
*Saturday March 25th Chicago, IL LIVEWIRE *
*Sunday March 26th Milwaukee, WI RIVERWEST PUBLIC HOUSE*
Tuesday March 28th Denver, CO SUMMIT MUSIC HALL
^ WITH THE MUNSENS
*WITH BISON MACHINE