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Headroom - “Head in the Clouds” (2017) review


Headroom - Head in the Clouds (Trouble In Mind Records, 2017)

Unlike what the album’s title suggests, Head In The Clouds is not a lofty floating hypnotic adventure above planet earth, unless of course it’s a rather atmospherically windy day, and the clouds are moving across the sky at a steady pace … which can have its advantages, as the long fingers of the sun are broken up in kaleidoscope fashion, and you don’t mind the wind rustling your hair and chilling your upturned face.

While the album is divided into six songs, it’s more appropriate to see these as six movements of the same piece of music, constructed to flow together in an evolving contextual sequence, envisioned by outsider experimental music concept designer and guitarist Kyssi Battalene, where here, guitar voyaging is at the center of the project, invading territories with an underlying harshness that does not allow me to get lost in my own thoughts, or even the music for that matter, because experimentation of this sort is designed to hold one’s attention, and not allow for sonic drifting.

All of the tracks are rather lengthy, which is not a drawback, though with so much time to devote to these meanderings, I was surprised at how much swampiness they seemed to move through, meaning that Headroom seem not to have a defined direction in mind, nor do they seem conscious of the listener at all, seeming to stand apart, creating a presentation rather than a guiding hand to draw one in, wrap them in their vision, and comfortably offer acceptance … more aptly, establishing lines of demarcation with a blurred, yet a balanced sense of chaos, where they create and establish a musical identity that belongs to them alone.

Without a doubt, on first listen one will want to hear or experience Head In The Clouds as a psych tour de force of space rock, though I assure you, if that is what you have in mind, you will quickly become disenchanted, because this is truly experimental music for those who come down on the more refined structured side of that sprawl, where fuzzed out reverb and tremolo acquisitions define and redefine the music the plays on this embodiment of guitar distortion, delivering a type of psychedelic freeform jazz that comes across strikingly as a headlong dive through the clouds, where one’s mind goes wild with the anticipation of an atmospheric fall from grace and the anticipation of hitting the planet headlong. This is not to say that there are not moments of great beauty found within the construct, it’s simply that the blistering guitar noise wants to swallow you whole and profoundly rearrange your DNA.

This is a heady journey for those willing to take the plunge, and while I found it all to be enlightening sporadic and dissociative, once heard, once experienced, I found little that would call to me to open this door yet again.

[laughing] I found the album artwork to be rather prophetic, a type of homespun cross stitch pattern that certainly represents warmth patience and comfort, though on a second consideration, this cross stitch is rather haphazardly done and shot full of holes, indicating that this album is anything but warm and comfortable.

*** The Fun Facts: Headroom is a technical term used in the music recording setting to describe the maximum level a sound system can achieve before distortion occurs. This is more commonly known as ‘clipping’ … which is a squaring-off, a clipped waveform that occurs when the power output of an amplifier cannot meet the power requirement of the speaker system it is driving. Clipping can be very harmful to the tweeters of high-frequency speakers.

- Jenell Kesler
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