CLOUD2 is a cassette that has sat on my shelf since April without knowing its true purpose in this remorseless physical realm. Don’t ask me why it took nearly five months for me to stick it in my deck and give it an honest listen. I was by no means avoiding it—especially considering how fond I am of Null Zone releases. At least it was among its bretheren while it waited patiently for its moment to sing through my speakers.
Well, “sing” isn’t the right word. CLOUD2 (by x.nte — also known in the real world as Michael Hollis) is an experimental electronic album (like most other Null Zone releases) with a frenetic, 90s IDM/Breakcore feel (think Squarepusher or Venetian Snares). Forlorn melodies played by soft pads and random vocal samples (sometimes discernable, other times stretched or glitched-out beyond recognition) float like shifting clouds over a chaotic field of bullet-fast percussive attacks. This juxtaposition gives the entirety of the album considerable depth and scope. Depending on what aspect of the recording you’re focusing on at any given moment, it can either feel like you’re witnessing a 24th century warzone from a hovercraft thousands of feet up in the ash-filled sky or from the center of one of the countless craters in the pulvarized landscape below.
These images are easily conjured, I think, because the album is very much a cinematic experience—being that the songs are arranged and woven together in such a way so as to keep the listener from noticing when songs begin or end. This applies more-so when listening to this album on cassette, of course. Streaming may stifle this a bit. But, let us briefly pretend, for Michael Hollis’ sake, that we live in a completely analog world again. Cloud2 Is best enjoyed this way.
**This is as good of a place as any to note that the cassette version of CLOUD2 comes with 4 extra tracks that are not included in the digital download**
And, pushing foward from this notion of CLOUD2’s cinematic tendencies, I feel it’s important to acknowledge the rarity of such qualities in this subgenre of electronic music. While the greats (like previously mentioned Squarepusher) produce(d) albums of such transcendent magntitude — a staggering amount of imitators, on the other hand, have (hopefully) unwittingly bastardized the style with that all-familiar strain of mediocrity that seemingly infects every genre imaginable as time goes on. That being said, this album is good for much more than just mesmerizing an MDMA-saturated swath of sweaty twenty-somethings on a basement dancefloor.
Nothing against that particular scene, by the way. I’ve been known to attend such outings here and there.
Anyway, I really was pleasantly surprised when I stuck CLOUD2 in my cassette deck the other day. As is always the case with Null Zone releases, I had no idea what to expect. If you are someone who pursues this type of feeling, I’d recommend keeping up with the label’s releases. Who knows what’s coming next.