Wrong: Cleft’s Weird And Wonderful Farewell
Four solitary hi-hat hits, followed by an eruption of parallactic, discombobulated guitar work that, in amongst its frantic confusion latches onto a groove that is damnably overwhelming, and Cleft’s marvellous five year history is drawing to a close.
Frankenstein is the perfect opener. This, their sixth release and potent epitaph, it is a powerful arrangement that reeks of both genius and insanity. Succeeded by the elephantine gruff of D.O.N.G 808, the record bottles both their dextrous, sporadic and scattershot musicianship with their innate mad brilliance; a prevailing sense of humour that, despite the talent bubbling inside the test tubes of these recordings, refuses to take itself too seriously. The fun that this duo clearly had while making the album punctuates their atmosphere like a great big exclamation mark.
“Cleft is dead. Long live Cleft,” read an official band statement on their decision to lay this beast to rest with one final album and farewell tour – which hits Manchester’s Deaf Institute 25th June. Indeed, while the band’s decision is one marked with sadness, Wrong stands as one final reminder at to why we’re all so sad they will cease to be in the first place.
Bees, Beads and Beas is masterful with its juxtaposing of dark, droning overdriven chords and light, vibrant clean guitars and moments of (relative) quiet. The intergalactic boogie of Me, Sugar – glittered with electronica and more time signature tomfoolery than a Geddy Lee picnic – is as unnervingly odd and mentally challenging as it is raucously fun.
By nature, instrumental music – thanks to what we come to expect from with regards to Western music nowadays – is lacking one of the most vital flavours in the musical cake: A vocalist. As chartered in my Instrumental Interpretations column for The Sludgelord, it can be difficult for such a band to hold your attention for longer than a handful of songs. In the column I put instrumental music under the microscope to assess the positive and negative approaches bands take to make their music alluring in the absence of a singer. We’ve had some excellent and some more disappointing submissions so far. Yet, for Cleft, this is a task they nail with absolute authority. Such is the intricacy, intellect and the diversity of their songs – those odd time signatures and quirky rhythms sticking out like a sore thumb – there is plenty to digest. Across these 12 tracks they intersperse different textures, colours and hidden treasures to keep the ears pricked and your mind ticking.
David for instance is a genteel, dreamlike interlude. It sits pleasantly alongside many of the records more high octane compositions, while the bastardised, twangy funk of Desperate Elvis keeps leads you down yet another unexpected path.
Just when you think you’ve heard it all before another dimension opens up, slaps you straight across the face and hands you over to the next track for a repeat performance. Wrong is, as I take a step back from the battleground, a delectable offering of the weird and the wonderful, their wacky individuality ever blossoming as the album progresses.
Cleft is dead. Long live Cleft.
Words: Phil Weller