Press photo by Colin May

Words by Jordan Martich

In an age of excessive commodity, anything crafted by hand glows with authenticity. Established in our clothing, furniture and artwork are the hours of meticulous design and the labor of execution, investments familiar to the Indiana band Cloakroom. This year, the trio continue to blend the meatier parts of shoegaze and the emotional moments of metal into Time Well, their latest release on Relapse Records. This album is a collapsing star, a cluster of time and energy burst out over the course of 10 songs.

“I want to create music that, 20 years from now, if you go into a Goodwill and you find Time Well and you buy it, take it home and listen to it, it has some relevance to you,” said bassist Bobby Markos.

This is – quite literally – something that Cloakroom made themselves, by outfitting an empty office building into a recording studio personalized for the band. Drummer Brian Busch and the band’s longtime sound engineer Zac Montez began amassing the gear and building the sacred space from scratch. The writing of the record and the structure of the studio grew in parallel, though that made the process more challenging according to Markos.

“There was the risk that this could not work out,” he said. “Everything could end up sounding bad and we could’ve had to go back to the drawing board. But it didn’t.”

On Time Well, the blurry distortion and spacey haze that accompanies much of their past work changes its tone. We go from acrylic to watercolor, the brushstrokes leaving the same signature but illustrating with new definition to the composition. There’s a delicate hand at work here. By controlling their recording experience from the ground up they’ve gained access to unfettered freedoms that most artists would use to over-embellish, but that Cloakroom uses to elevate sensibly. They push deeper and darker with this record, moving further into their own identity to create that testament of a great band – an album that gets better with each successive listen.

“We want our sound to progress and go to different places. We want to try and do different things,” said Markos. “I don’t want to be a band that puts out the same album three times and calls it a day.”

Choices on the record are subtle but smart, like reverse-engineering the main melody of “Seedless Star” into gritty bass that fades into a lonely piano at the tail. The wooden but expressive vocals of guitarist Doyle Martin on reimagined songs like “Hymnal” and ballads like “The Sun Won’t Let Us Go” introduce the lyrical element as another part of instrumentation, another texture that sits lower in the mix. The limitations of noise rock and metal are buried in the intimate tapestry Cloakroom creates. While listeners can get seductively lost in this record’s bulk, anticipation grows for a body of illuminating work.

“When this is all done I want to have six Cloakroom LPs and be able to lay them all next to each other,” said Markos. “I want that really bad. I think that’s our goal.”

Cloakroom, Porch, Slow Bloom
Rickshaw Stop
November 7, 2017
7:30 pm, $12-15

Jordan Martich is a writer and musician living in Oakland. He drinks too much coffee and doesn’t go to the beach enough.