Like many of us, Cloud Nothings mastermind Dylan Baldi can’t get over the nagging sense that bad times are right around the corner. But unlike the rest of the world, he didn’t need a year of news terrible enough to make “dumpster fire” a household phrase to activate it.
“I always have some sense of impending doom,” Baldi said when I spoke to him over the phone last week prior to the release of the post-rock band’s upcoming full-length. “There’s always something terrible coming.”
Baldi’s previous albums with Cloud Nothings bear this out. A closer look at his last two albums — 2014’s Here And Nowhere Else, and before that Attack On Memory — reveal glimmers of end times epiphanies at every turn. And, as you might expect, always thinking about doom has left Baldi prepared. On “Stay Useless” — a standout from Memory, Cloud Nothing’s breakout album, he’s practically asking for it to come: “I need time to stop moving,” he begs in the chorus. “I need time to stay useless.”
But after several albums of making the end of days seem personal, Baldi’s ready to move it outside of his own head. Where previous work sounded like the inside of Baldi’s brain clattering down around him, tracks on Life Without Sound move on from the imagery of private turmoil and unleash the catastrophe on the outside world. Life Without Sound‘s “Sight Unseen” and “Up To The Surface” are built around portraits of a world that’s simultaneously burning up and sinking into the ocean.
“There was a night of war away,” he sings in a representative line, “A row of islands all ablaze.”
In spite of this — and maybe because these songs are finally released from the confines of Baldi’s head — Sound is Baldi’s airiest and most upbeat work since the band’s self-titled album from 2009, and it’s an album that Baldi said is meant to inspire. However, Baldi himself refused to doesn’t feel there’s really an increase in brightness on this record over previous albums.
“I don’t think the songs are that different,” he said. “I kind of just wanted to not be a band that made a nine minute song on every album.”