After 12 years together and more than 20 releases, Cloud Rat are back with a new album, Threshold, out now via Artoffact Records, a record that sounds like three humans pushed to the edge—the threshold and giving 100% of themselves to the present moment.
“I think leading into 2020, hot off the heels of our last full-length, we were super ready to go hard and tour and this and that—Life obviously did not have that in store for us,” drummer Brandon Hill laughs. “A lot has changed in our personal lives, and I’d argue in our band life as well. While in some ways good and maybe others worse, I’d say this record couldn’t have been made without those changes, frustrations, losses, desires, energies, etc. Even when we practice the songs now we say, ‘This is the most difficult we’ve ever written!’ and listening to the album, I’d definitely say it’s the clearest intention and most full on statement yet from the band and what it’s about—sonically, lyrically, etc.”
Guitarist Rorik Brooks believes Threshold to be the pinnacle of Cloud Rat’s career thus far, unifying its liberated approach into one cohesive thrust. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. I think everyone’s performance is the best of any record we’ve put out yet, which is probably due to having the comfort/time of being at home doing it, also probably because we are collectively, intensely self-critical. And I like how aggressive it is in general — probably the gnarliest record we’ve ever done, somehow, we’re still bursting with vehemence.”
Discussing the significance of the album title, Hill states: “The inspiration, so to speak, is quite simply life itself. I think we all as individuals come to the table with our own unique set of sonic influences and situational circumstances. Rorik, with his deeper dives into electronic music and production in Ableton as well as obsessive video game and film studies. Madison with her multitude of both heavy visual and sonic interests spanning ‘70s, ’80s to now in all things punk, avant-garde, stylish, and brooding. I myself with considerable time spent the past years in a deep focus of synthesis and modular synth work and experimentation… and obsessing over PS1 soundtracks as well as ECM records and their drummers.”
“I think the message ends up kinda being that this is hard,” he continues. “Life is hard. For lots of people, and while that’s kind of a given, and many people may say that (and/or) convey that or even fight against that notion, maybe it bears repeating that we are all going through it. It’s really easy to write off people and groups as this and that based on these now internet-led tirades against people and in the name of, often self-defined, ’justice.’ But really all we’ve done is radically alienated many who don’t have as much of a voice or who are stumbling like we all do (and) not to mention created a world where everyone now has a potentially extremely damaging megaphone and are all shouting at the same time. Very little listening takes place. Very little patience with people or time spent focusing on any one thing or thinking much at all, for that matter. That may seem judgmental, but I use myself as a reference point, for on my worst days how it just feels like an all-too chaotic, spinning, swirling mess of decisions and indecisions and pressures and endless information. Truly a peak and a threshold indeed.”
The album was engineered and mixed by Brooks at his home studio and mastered by Harris Newman. “The shifts in life and time aid to the variance of ideas and themes record to record. I don’t think we’ve ever just been like, ‘Hey, let’s record for recordings sake!’ There seems to be a need and time and place for these things to gestate, and I think they naturally evolve in that way. There’s definitely a regularly made attempt to improve upon the ideas laid down the last time, but really I think that just happens from wanting to improve in general, to keep one’s own self-involved, inspired, excited, and challenged by what you are doing,” Hill explains.
“I just hope it resonates with someone in a way even half as meaningful as so many records have resonated with me over my lifetime. All you can hope for when you put something out into the world is that it helps someone else with whatever they are trying to deal with or go through, or maybe just lets them enjoy the day or moment a little more and that maybe it inspires in a positive way whatever is to come next in life.”
Photo courtesy of Luke Mouradian