By JOHN ADAMIAN, firstname.lastname@example.org
April 10, 2014
Dylan Baldi expresses the restless frustration of his generation. He's a guy who's comfortable with, maybe even hungry for, rapid change. He doesn't want to get bogged down with too much self-absorption. Baldi — the singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Ohio-based Cloud Nothings — says he's written a lot about "general malaise, and the lack of direction that a lot of people my age feel or felt." In some ways Baldi represents a typical 21st-century kind of twitchy youthful aimlessness. But, at 22, the frontman of a successful indie rock band that has already traveled all over and released several full-length albums, and now after living in Paris for the better part of the last two years, Baldi's experience may have deviated slightly from the generic middle American.
Cloud Nothings, who play the Space in Hamden on April 12, just released their fourth full-length studio record, "Here and Nowhere Else," earlier this month. The band has re-invented itself from its lo-fi indie-pop beginnings in 2009, turning into something a little more muscular and pressurized. For the past two years or so the band has been making pumped-up adrenaline-fueled noisy rock. They're no longer shambling. The new record follows in the surging and slightly abrasive wake of 2012's "Attack on Memory," which was recorded by Steve Albini, champion of the raw and real. The band is now a trio with Baldi as the sole guitarist following the departure of guitarist Joe Boyer. Baldi, who spoke to CTNow from California, just before the new record's release, says he likes to push himself and the band to the limits of their abilities in hopes of striking on something different or unexpected, or at least just to keep himself entertained.
Tempos on Cloud Nothings songs often ratchet upwards or erupt into a hyper-speed blur and then settle back in unusual spots. Or else they stop for split second before bursting forward again. The steady attack of eighth notes has a sewing machine, precision-stitch quality. Listen to "Psychic Trauma" from the new record, and you hear a band chasing itself, being whipped into overdrive, but still holding it all together, just at the edge of busting apart, perhaps. Baldi says it's mostly the work of drummer Jayson Gerycz, who Baldi and bassist TJ Duke follow.
"We're a really tight band, but we don't play at a constant tempo," says Baldi. "We stay really together. We just listen to our drummer pretty much."
Lyrically, there's a corresponding hint of menace. "I can feel your pain/And I feel alright about it," Baldi sings again and again on "Now Hear In," the opening track on the new record.
Baldi says that the band's sound on the past two records is so drastically different from their first two that the group no longer performs the old material. They basically evolved themselves out of a back catalog of songs.
"If we played [the old songs] they would sound so out of place," says Baldi.
That hunger for reinvention extends beyond the sonic palette. Baldi says he works to make the writing process one that also spurs a transformation once the tunes are fully realized and played live or recorded.
"I like to write stuff that I don't know how to play yet," he says. "I like the energy of a band sort of figuring itself out on record."
That push to keep struggling might foster creative leaps, but it also simply allows the process to happen without getting hobbled by too much self-reflection. Baldi says his lyric writing happens in a very last-minute, off-the-cuff way.
"If I really had a lot of time to work on lyrics, I would think about them and I would never do anything. I would sit and think and go insane," he says. "Lyrics, I have to write really quick. The lyrics tend to be autobiographical in a way, and it's kind of fun to go back and say 'Oh, that's what I was thinking back then.'"
CLOUD NOTHINGS play April 12, 8 p.m., at The Space in Hamden on 295 Treadwell St., Hamden. Information: thespacect.com.
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