Album Debut: Big Black Cloud – Lessons in Fuck You 2

Arab on Radar raised on the Cramps.

No, wait, a rediscovered cover of “Stranded in the Jungle” by no-wave destroyers.

Waaaaaait. A PCP dance party playing Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” mashed-up with Pere Ubu. . . or the Ventures. . . or the Locust? Huh.

Point is, there are a lot of angles you can take when trying to describe Portland bizarro trio Big Black Cloud. Most of them turn false as soon as the band shifts to something new. However, even in the moment those angles aren’t accurate. Sure, you can try to slice the meat thinner than an Arby’s run by a penny-pincher, but it doesn’t really approximate the entirety of what Big Black Cloud can do. Nick Capello’s guitar amp spits reverbed skronk like the sparks from a blade sharpener. Soo Koelbli’s bass undulates like a boat in a storm. Drummer Travis Wainwright sounds like an entire gym of occupied speedbags. That’s just it, though: it’s “like” this, it’s “like” that. It doesn’t explain the Big Black Cloud experience; not like listening to the Big Black Cloud experience.

What separates Lessons in Fuck You 2 from other brain-busters is that it doesn’t flaunt its weirdness. It doesn’t nudge your ribs, whispering, “Oh man, isn’t this soooooo weird, man?” Big Black Cloud sort of ‘yes, and. . . ’s their quirkiness. The oddities aren’t the ends, but they’ll use those oddities to find what they’re looking for. For them, it’s almost like the creative process consists of a series of experiments in measuring the capacity of an idea. I imagine each player jamming with only one intention tying them together: How far can I push away from my mates before this song becomes unstable? The usual answer is pretty damn far.

And, thankfully, Big Black Cloud find that answer pretty damn fast. Lessons in Fuck You 2 is surprisingly economic, plating many smaller courses instead of dumping a buffet’s worth of indulgent fat in front of you. There are no acid-aided trips into hour-long bouts of bullshit here. If Big Black Cloud can’t nail down their thesis within three minutes, they deem it unworthy for the ears of others. That said, some of these grooves are so good, you wouldn’t mind the group riding them a bit longer. Of course, that’s probably why they play live, which would give their career a Grateful Dead dimension. Huh. Guess that’s another angle.

Big Black Cloud’s Lessons in Fuck You 2 was released on August 5 via Eolian Empire. It’s available for purchase now.

— Ian Chainey