Cleared, Expo 70, Sam Prekop Free Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Jan. 20, 9 p.m. 2012

On their second album as Cleared, Breaking Day (due this week from Immune), guitarist Michael Vallera and percussionist Steve Hess dramatically alter the approach they used for last year's self-titled debut. On their first recording they used time-consuming postproduction to assemble a caustic, burned-out ambient sound, collaging together loads of separate tracks, processing them using distortion and delay, and bouncing passages repeatedly among different analog media until drums, electric guitar, and bass became something cavernous, spooky, and unrecognizable. On the new album, Cleared sound more like a guitar-drums duo—they played the music pretty much live and then augmented it in the studio, instead of assembling everything piecemeal—but it's no easier to tell where each sound comes from. Hess uses a mix of live kit drumming and huge, walloping sampled beats while Vallera shapes undulating waves of feedback, acid-cut drones, and dark, slithering riffs; together they conduct workshop on noise and rhythm that's worthy of This Heat. Cleared exercise impressive restraint throughout the album, never letting themselves lapse into easy genre tropes—the tribal thrum of the title track and the abrasive, postindustrial scraping of "The Harvest" don't settle into meaty rock or unadulterated noise. Considering how Hess and Vallera have opened up their sound here, I'm already eager to hear where they go on their next recording. —Peter Margasak Expo 70 and Sam Prekop open.

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