Sound — 8
The two best words to describe Ben Sharp would be "humble genius." Donning the moniker Cloudkicker when he's making music, Sharp is an unsigned solo composer that shows little interest in having his passion for music be a facet for financial gain - he offers all of his music for free download, with his reason being, "it costs me absolutely nothing to create the music." However, he still manages to sell shirts and physical copies of his music as well as perform live from time to time due to the following he's amassed for being a hidden treasure, successfully captivating the eggheads and hipsters in the metal community with his beautifully brainy, avant-garde music.
Cloudkicker's 2012 album, "Fade," took a break from the aggressive and technical prog-metal and focused on being more post-metaly; which was then followed up by "Subsume," which dove back into the arms of the former style. Cloudkicker's new EP, "Little Histories," essentially bridges the two styles together. The beginning interlude "Parliament" sets the table with sparse guitar plucks and the warm humming of an organ before going into the "Fade"-styled track "Sky Guide," where Sharp jams the same riff while increasing guitar layers momentously sprout.
The guitars start climbing towards a prog-metal level of loud and powerful in the slow-going, hint-of-doom "Chameleon," but it's not until the middle of "Digital Lightning" when Sharp finally lets the dogs loose and syncs the guitars and bass to tricky technical riffing, which will surely quench the thirst of the progheads. The final track "Hassan" settles things down again to post-metal texture building, but the second half has Sharp going back to riffing in a state of trance, where the irrational rhythm bursts make that hamster-wheel repetition more interesting than the typical jamming section.
Lyrics — 7
Sharp had dryly stated in an interview years ago that he had no interest in adding any vocal elements to his music. For whatever reason why is anyone's guess - maybe he feels adamant about Cloudkicker's music not needing vocals and lyrics, or maybe he's just shy about singing. Regardless, Sharp has decided to break that silence for the first time in "Little Histories," where "Sky Guide" includes a small set of lyrics delivered through a vocoder. Most likely added in to make the jam track a bit more interesting, the lyrics are brief and vague ("way down, it's a long way down/and how you're gonna fall away/long time, such a long time/don't fight it, just slip away"), so for the most part, the meaning of the song is amorphous and open to whatever interpretation the listener sees fit. This is Sharp merely dipping his toes into a new aspect that Cloudkicker never had before, so the experimentation has little effect in the EP, which is neither good or bad; though if Sharp decided to bring a whole arsenal of lyrics for each song, who knows how jarring the difference would have been, so perhaps easing into that new element ever so slightly is the smart way to start.
Overall Impression — 8
With an overarching progression from pretty post-metal interludes to well-calculated prog-metal sections, "Little Histories" threads the needle between the introspective and intelligent sides of Cloudkicker, and builds a cohesive path from start to finish. Ultimately playing to the strengths that Sharp has displayed before, "Little Histories" makes for a good introduction and/or refresher on the multi-faceted sound of Cloudkicker, which will both captivate newcomers and remind the loyal fans why they got into Cloudkicker in the first place.