Clouds Ghost Systems Rave
Clouds (a.k.a. Calum Macleod and Liam Robertson) has been cranking out pounding techno records at an astonishing rate this year. The Scottish duo's first full-length effort, an album for Turbo titled Ghost Systems Rave, will be its fourth release of 2013, and the LP delivers a fresh heaping of straightforward warehouse beats—14 more tracks of dark, metallic bangers, to be precise. However, while the duo's work rate is impressive, it's hard to deny that its output is starting to feel a bit ham-fisted. Though the tracks are solid and effective, the record as a whole is monochromatic and rarely wavers from the heavy "new jack techno" style Clouds has explored on its last three EPs.
"Modular Scarf" and "Khevsurian" are Ghost Systems Rave's strongest efforts, and both roll out rigid rhythms, deep bass tones, and crisp percussion; like many of the tracks on the LP, they're DJ tools with a strong Sandwell District influence. "Modular Scarf" opens with the sound of gravel crunching under heavy boots, but it abruptly drops into a head-nodding, visceral beat decorated with hooting synth notes. "Khevsurian" takes a more brutal and distorted approach, with a rumbling kick and sharp stabs of metallic sound that build upon each other to create a dissonant cacophony anchored to a 4/4 rhythm. The track belies Clouds' tendency to add layers of noise atop crunchy beats, and by straying from that formula, the track ultimately becomes more engaging.
"Future 1" is another standout. It channels old-school rave with a curt "Yeah" vocal sample squeezed between thundering beats and a skyscraping trance melody, but the duo makes up for the derivative qualities by virtue of the song's conviction and catchiness. "Skeleton Island," on the other hand, is the weirdest and most experimental track on the album, as it finds Clouds exploring its noise-leaning influences. Here, prickly keys rise out of a murky fog of rustling sound, and the track travels through wavering, indistinguishable vocal samples and cavernous vacuums of sound before a beat drops. Eventually, the track develops into a grimey burner with a rumbling acid bassline that sounds more raw than the other cuts on the album.
Without question, Ghost Systems Rave features a few outstanding numbers, but at a certain point, they start to run together. "Roche Lobe (System)," a brief cut with wavering keys that ring like bells, is the only respite from the forceful kick drums included on relentless techno cuts like "Gothic" and "Uiqwenmokdan." These tracks—and the numerous others like them—are effective and showcase the duo's skill as producers, but cut-and-dry warehouse beats don't necessarily lend themselves to the album format. Simply put, it gets tiresome to listen to 14 bangers in a row. Had the duo distilled the finest cuts from its massive tracklist into something a bit sleeker, Ghost Systems Rave could have been an absolutely smashing release.
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