‘Avalanche’, the new album from Italian shoegaze behemoths, CLUSTERSUN, clearly sets out its sonic intent from the very beginning. ‘Desert Daze’ is an aural buzzsaw, tilting along a thundering rhythm section with sonorous, razor sharp guitars and impassioned vocals. It is a wall of sound filtered through by flange, reverb and feedback that leaves one completely eviscerated by the end. It warns you: fasten your seatbelts, you’re in for some ride. Like all their videos, the the video is breathtakingly beautiful, enigmatic and stunning:
For the sake of sanity, the following track, single ‘All Your Pain’ (the stunning video which we premiered at the end of March) dips into dream pop territory with its more restrained but just as dark tones: a sombre, haunting juggernaut of sound. We wrote that the track is crystal cold and thunderous – a driving ominous pace and threatening tone, with razor sharp guitars and a foreboding rhythm. Over seven minutes long, the track builds up with a powerful electronic pulse and the vocals form a haunting overlay with an indelible melody. The result is something that is hypnotic and ethereal, weaving a spell as it reaches a crescendo. The video is beautiful and haunting:
‘Closer/Deeper’ is another thundering wall of sound: epic and profound with its screaming squalling guitars and quiet/loud ethos. The vocals are again cold and distant, a hint of malevolence and disdain but filled with melody. It is followed by ‘Juggernaut’ – a most accurate description of a song that enters the fray at full tilt with guitars that wail like banshees over the insistent and relentless bass. Vocals swagger in a reverberated style with the full force and enigma of songs by The Verve at their early best: slightly buried but with a brutal force and expression.
Midpoint and an eight minute epic, title track ‘Avalanche (Legion 5)’ is an elegiac, sombre track with a measured pace and a sense of foreboding. Indeed, this is the defining feature of CLUSTERSUN: a marriage of restless and scything music with a deeply satisfying dark gothic undercurrent (somewhere where MBV meets Sisters of Mercy). Echoes of something more raw and brutal haunts the edges of the track: animalistic and tribal, naked and raw. The guitars become spectacular instruments that manifest like a machete in a velvet glove: caressing and cutting at the same time.
The track is quite spectacular: it mesmerises and transfixes and builds up to sanity-challenging crescendo. Breathtaking, imperious and statuesque.
By contrast, ‘Barricades’ is almost jaunty with its almost middle eastern riffs and pounding drums and the harsh vocals. The accompanying video is visceral and raw:
‘Sinking In To You’ has the instrumental depth and darkness of Joy Division: driving, melodic bass and a doom-filled presence contrasted by the vocals which are brighter and burnished with a melodic, melancholic pop sheen. CLUSTERSUN put on show their musical diversity and talents: this is classic, bright indie pop – a hint of dream pop shimmer and commercial accessibility.
The album ends with ‘Scar’: a fuzzy, chaotic blistering track that careers along like an out-of-control train: a punk thrash that threatens to derail and explode at any moment. A complete sonic blast.
‘Avalanche is a magnificent and stunning piece of visceral, raw and thunderous gothic shoegaze. It lifts the pulse, takes away your breath and sits inside your head and won’t let go. It has enigma about it: an amalgam of dreamy pop, eviscerating shoegaze and something dark and deep lurking inside. A cavalcade of noise. A ghostly apparition cloaked in rich deep purple velvet with a scythe buried deep within the folds. Utterly cathartic.
The artwork for ‘Avalanche’ is an original painting by Marco Baldassari, painter and founder of Sonic Jesus, who was inspired by the music itself:
At the beginning there’s silence, a deaf sound and the spell of the forthcoming uproar. Then, vibrations cover what is actually hiding beyond the avalanche, while the sun struggles to warm and melt. In the end, the chemical of sounds reveals itself through the chemical of pictures.
‘Avalanche’ is out now through Little Cloud Records (US) / Icy Cold Records (FR) in limited edition vinyl (300 copies) with translucent red with rainbow splatter and a cd digipack and digital formats. All mixing and mastering was by James Aparicio.
Feature Photograph: Simone Conti