There’s something in the water down in Richmond. I know this because Virginian natives Fight Cloud and Houdan the Mystic have been drinking it and have since compiled a new, eight track, thirty-minute split EP entitled Where’s My Shakespeare? that is superb in its execution. Strikingly deep and deceptively complex, each band has put forth a respective fifteen minutes of music across four tracks that can be counted amongst their best so far. Both groups appear to be cut from the same cloth, which makes the release not only a mutually beneficial collaboration for the artists, but also a fully-realized concept piece for the listener who has a mere half hour to spare.
Available in both digital and cassette formats (limited to 100 total), side A belongs to Fight Cloud, and what a side it is. This was my introduction to Fight Cloud, which speaks to just how effective split releases are. From the opening track, ‘Rocket Light Box,’ I was hooked. It’s start-and-stop intro, which is mellow, bass and rhythm driven, and more complex than it’s relaxed and effortless tone would suggest, quickly bursts into a powerful “chorus” loaded with off the beat playing –a riff that mercifully returns later in the song with just the same effect. It’s these type of tonal shifts that encompass most of Fight Cloud’s side of Where’s My Shakespeare? and make it endlessly enjoyable to listen to. What begins as an oddly timed tapping pattern layered underneath soothing vocals will often evolve into a commanding lead with the perfect balance of tone and distortion. Fight Cloud aren’t afraid to get in your face and are equally unafraid to take their slow grooves up to the level of genuine danceability.
On the more contemplative side of things, side B wastes no time introducing listener’s to Houdan the Mystic’s signature slew of grooving basslines, erratic, yet somehow carefully considered drum patterns, and dreamlike, outer space guitar riffs. Houdan’s side is a slow jam throughout, something you’re invited to think your way through. Possibly my favourite track, ‘The Meeting’ begins as a gentle ride along a complex, infinitely accessible drumbeat, accented by mild acoustic guitar and far off, careful vocals. The entire intro gives the impression of falling asleep on a lightly rocking ship, seeming to sway left and right each time a snare punctuates the busy tom and hardware groove. And like the ocean, in an instant it becomes rough and stilted, distorted guitar leading the syncopation through its choppy middle, but emerging calm and clean on the other side and exiting its three minute runtime with all the ferocity of a lamb. Following this, the closing track, ‘The Reach’ employs one of my favourite post rock/math rock tricks –what I call the “set it and forget it” –and loops a single guitar riff in the intro, then builds on it for about two minutes, losing it in the shuffle, before letting it close out the split. This call back technique is somewhat characteristic of the side itself. I won’t spoil it for you, but listen to the whole thing a few times through and watch for repeated motifs that return from one song to the next, and you’ll understand why it feels so cohesive. This is equally reflected in the “The” naming of the song titles.
Like any split, Where’s my Shakespeare? is more of an appetizer for either band when listened to individually. But, unlike most splits, when you sit down to the entire release, it’s a much more rewarding and full experience. Sure, it’s no entrée, but I’d be lying if I said I’d never made a meal out of the appetizers before.