Published Jul 03, 2020The Black Hole Understands is, in a way, the third Cloud Nothings album of the pandemic. Back in April, singer-guitar Dylan Baldi released the lo-fi demos album Enemy at Home, followed in May by a jazz album under the name Baldi/Gerycz Duo (featuring the bandleader alongside Cloud Nothings drummer Jayson Gerycz).
But while this is the first release to be officially billed as a canon Cloud Nothings album, it's not your average LP from the Cleveland band. It was recorded remotely while the members were in isolation, and Baldi tweeted that he "stretched the built-in mac GarageBand guitar amps to the height of their fake guitar amp abilities."
Consequently, The Black Hole Understands doesn't quite have the raw band-in-a-room energy of 2018's Last Building Burning. The gravelly scream that has featured prominently on past Cloud Nothings albums is entirely absent here, replaced by a surprisingly soft, high-register delivery. Baldi even shows off an on-point falsetto in the chorus hooks of "A Silent Reaction." The tempos are a little less breakneck than usual, and the guitars chime rather than roar on "Story That I Live" and "Memory of Regret." There's what sounds like a dash of blippy synths in the crescendo of "An Average World."
Instead of thundering aggression, these 10 tracks are easygoing with an undercurrent of nihilistic melancholy. Title cut "The Black Hole Understands" has a quirky bubblegum melody, but any good vibes are undercut with a refrain of "The black hole is waiting for you."
It isn't cathartic, exactly, but it's comforting — and as far as pandemic albums go, that's a perfect takeaway. (Independent)