Cleared, Alex Barnett | Constellation | Experimental | Chicago Reader
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Cleared, Alex Barnett 

When: Thu., May 22, 9:30 p.m. 2014
Price: $10
Chicago duo Cleared, aka Steve Hess and Michael Vallera, has changed its modus operandi with each of its three albums—which form a trilogy, at least according to the press materials for the brand-new Drown (Immune), the final installment. After excursions into studio-wrought heavy drone and a This Heat-style combo of crushing noise and machinelike rhythms, Cleared now sounds like a minimalist rock band, trafficking in melodic, effects-heavy guitar, ominous groove, and gentle, immersive ambience—it's as though Drown somehow averages out the two previous records. On the opening track (which is also the title track), Hess and Vallera conjure the humid atmosphere of a vintage 4AD Records release—specifically the murky, flanged guitar of the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie, set to a simple, slow backbeat. But on the very next piece, a tense and harrowing collision of guitars and keyboards suggests the grating screech of a subway car suddenly braking, while Hess's subterranean pulse adds anxiety without resolution. "Remote Ocean Prayer" takes a third path, splattering a harsh industrial buzz with acidic guitar noise and beatless, friction-oriented percussion. The album plays with all those elements in varying combinations, alternately evoking terror and relief. —Peter Margasak

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