Hungry Cloud Darkening

Glossy Recall

(CD - Off Tempo #)

Review by Fred Thomas

All three members of Anacortes, Washington-based group Hungry Cloud Darkening have spent time as touring musicians with another Anacortes band, Mount Eerie, sometimes showing up on studio recordings as well. Mount Eerie have a reputation for misty, tumultuously straining, and ever beautiful feats of songwriting that border on spiritual epiphanies, furthered in no small part by the monolithic albums made by sole constant bandmember Phil Elverum and his revolving host of friends when operating under the Microphones moniker. At first blush, it's hard to divorce the mysterious and inward-looking sounds made by Hungry Cloud Darkening from the looming shadow Mount Eerie's influence cast over the more self-reflective side of the Northwestern indie scene and beyond over the course of their lengthy journey. However, as the band's sophomore full-length Glossy Recall spins on, the singularity of the band comes into view. It becomes apparent that even though the two acts may have similar foundations of spacious production and a knack for dark atmospheres that still allow for catchy melodies, Hungry Cloud Darkening's subtle approach to recording and the ceaseless movement of their compositions place them in a category all their own. Recorded in an all-analog fashion, some of the otherworldly sounds made on Glossy Recall feel especially alien in their lack of digital manipulation. Walls of ominous keyboard tones and breathy multi-tracked vocals from Allyson Foster make up lush, sorrowful fields of sound on tracks like "Clearly Seen" and "Hidden and No Trace," but other elements always filter in and out of the mix, from the watery horns on "Hold This Moment" to the stereo-panned synth strings and increasingly distorted vocals that build tension on "Talk About Something." The dreamy cuts between Beach Boys-esque guitar, floating piano patches, and skeletal bass on "Fading Comfort" seem hard to imagine being made without the help of digital editing, but the organic feel of the song ends up landing somewhere between the carefree naiveté of the Free Design and the faraway melancholia of '90s underground indie acts like His Name Is Alive and Adventures in Stereo. Elsewhere, the band's ghostly pop bounce is similar to the dreamiest moments of Broadcast, especially on tracks like "Blue Green," where Foster takes the lead instead of trading verses with co-vocalist Nicholas Wilbur. The album is best taken as a whole, as the songs all fit together nicely to form a bigger picture of solitude, stillness, and calm that grows more intricate as it goes on, and allows for a clearer picture with repeated listening. Drawing almost invisibly on everything from minimalist pop to modern classical composition, Hungry Cloud Darkening create an insular world of sound and motion all their own on Glossy Recall, and the listener is lucky to be able to hide safely inside with them for a while as the storms roll by outside.

blue highlight denotes track pick