Clustersun are an Italian four piece that sound anything but. It’s testament to the band, and vocalist Marco Chisari in particular, that their English delivery is convincing enough to assume they are indeed from our small island. The question being is this to the detriment of their Italian heritage?
Happily, the answer is no. Surfacing To Breath, their second album, is well executed and for the most part quite satisfying. They’re difficult to sum up in one easily digested genre: too sublime for psych, not dense enough to be all-out shoegaze, and a little too edgy to be considered dream pop. They tend to nitpick from all of these reference points, often in the space of one song.
The best songs on offer here bookend the album. Lead track “Raw Nerve” is as self assured and confident an opening statement that your likely to hear. Employing all their strengths from the get-go reaps dividends, the widescreen production really enhances the vibrancy, giving every instrument room to breathe. The vocals sit brilliantly in the mix, Marco possesses one of those voices that’s pleasing on the ear, sweet enough to offset the jarring guitar and synth storm around him. At the other end of the album is “Event Horizon”, which lies in complete contrast to “Raw Nerve”. Taking its musical cues from Faith-era Cure with a pinch of late Joy Division, Marco cleverly weaves a more modern melody around the gloomy backdrop to create something which is oddly uplifting.
In between these two stellar tracks lies a curious conundrum, mostly to do with the pacing. “Antagonize Me” is a pleasing garage influenced synth driven tune (who thought there could be such a thing?), which frequently elevates from its primitive stomp into sky reaching peaks. Very cool. “Lonely Moon” follows in similar fashion, but then next track “The Whirling Dervish” is a real oddity. The intro could have been lifted from any of the many lengthy tracks from a recent Maiden album, but what follows is a very clumsy keyboard driven epic that feels incredibly out of place here. Piergiorgio Campione’s keyboard flourishes take centre stage and give everything a very Asia (the band, not the continent) feel, which given the post punk influence elsewhere is just bizarre.
Similarly awkward is the instrumental “Don’t Let the Weight of Your Soul Drag You Down”. It’s not a bad track, it’s merely sitting in the wrong place. By the time this track ends you’re wondering if you’re still listening to the same album, if not the same band. The title track is next, and if you’re patient enough to sit through the intro (another red herring) you soon get thrown back into the familiar territory of the opening two songs. Atmospheric, Doors-y keyboards and on occasion furious guitar scrapes meet the demands of drummer Andrea Conti’s pounding template, resulting in a song that’s pretty compelling. Although not far off “The Whirling Dervish” in terms of length, it feels like less than half of that. Penultimate track “Emotional Painkiller” again reaffirms their initial intent; a stadium sized chorus neatly offsetting the woozy guitars and punchy bass line. Neat.
As enjoyable as it is ever so slightly perplexing, Surfacing To Breath isn’t the best album you’ll hear this year, but you could do a hell of a lot worse. There could even be a hit or two here. With this being only their second release you have to admire their singular vision, I just hope they iron out their more whimsical tendencies for the next round.
Surfacing To Breath is out now