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Cari Clara with Noctaluca and Wake the Bear

By Mike Breen and Ezra Waller · October 8th, 2008 · Sound Advice
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Cari Clara

Listening to the new self-titled long-player from Cincinnati’s Cari Clara, I had a thought that I’ve had for about 15 years now. Eric Diedrichs (CC’s brain trust) should be famous. Not because he’s a pretty guy (though he is) and not because he has a great onstage presence (he does). Diedrichs has been one of Cincinnati’s most consistently good songwriters since his days with Power Pop faves The Simpletons. With Cari Clara and its self-searching melancholy and textural experimentation, Diedrichs — who is Cari Clara on record, playing all the instruments (save a guest spot or two from his wife on this one) —has become one of the more interesting artists of any arts medium in the city.

On his new album, Diedrichs proves once and for all that his creations have the poetic depth to appeal to English professors, the raw emotionalism to appeal to Emo kids, the melodic fortitude to draw in Pop music fans and the musical imagination to appeal to Indie music snobs. Hinted at on last year’s EP, You Better Run (most of the EP tracks show up on the new LP), Diedrichs has honed a sound that is moody, transcendent and utterly moving. It’s an album that demands your attention; no background music here and not a wasted minute.

The album is hypnotic in its cohesiveness, buoyed by the general vibe of melancholic hope. It sounds like the soundtrack to a great, complicated love affair that just happens to be peaking on the eve of the Apocalypse. Diedrichs’ golden voice is drenched in yearning and the music is loaded with matching tension and beauty.

Diedrichs uses (often effected) drum machines and synths (along with acoustic and electric guitar), but the album is anything but cold and sterile, as the songwriter coaxes organic tones from the technology. Highlights include “Hold.Hope” and “Our Famed Escape,” holdovers from last year’s EP that would appeal to fans of Radiohead or Muse, and “The Great Departure,” a minimal track filled with Diedrichs’ trademark vocal layers, has the tortured, theatrical drama of a classic Pink Floyd song.

With Cari Clara, Diedrichs has pulled off the rare feat of making an album that should stand as one complete piece of art, but the individual pieces more than stand up on their own. And from an artistic standpoint, it hits all the right buttons. Mesmerizing, mysterious and magnetic, this album could just be the one to earn Diedrichs the wider recognition he has so long deserved.

The release party for album will feature Diedrichs’ full band and will also serve as a release show for noctaluca’s new album (see below for a review). Both CDs will be given away for free at the show with paid admission.

Noctaluca

With their grandiose 2006 debut, Towering the Sum, Cincinnati’s noctaluca set the bar incredibly high. Rather than fretting about how to top themselves, they’ve made a follow-up that unequivocally says, “Fuck it. Rock ‘n’ Roll is not pole vaulting, so let’s just jam out and have a good time.”

The result is their Zeppelin III. Still the Wicked Rest is a rhythmically driven album with heaviness to spare, but still contains whimsical moments and several acoustic numbers. The production gloss of their last effort is largely absent, with the band instead opting for a relaxed, jeans-and-old-Tshirt approach. And the T is a V-neck that’s loose enough to give you a peak at the Soundgarden tattoo on their right breast.

Coming together in months (instead of years like their last effort) Wicked is a testament to the lineup’s chemistry and ability to quickly spin riffs into memorable tracks. The live sound of the album also seems to resonate with the enjoyment that they take from their work, making it as infectious as their shows. This beguiling quality combines with frontman Jason Ludwig’s trademark witty wordplay to balance the lyrical weight of the album, which is essentially a collection of politically charged diatribes.

The singular, dismal focus can get tedious, but amusing side trips like the Rockabilly rave-up “Suitcase” and Aaron Almashy’s frequent, soaring guitar solos (including one in “You’re Not Alone” clocking in at over a minute!) keep things from bogging down. Plus, the move towards writing as a full band (bassist and drummer Donovan and Brandon Schlunt share writing credit on “Hegemaniacal,” the most recently produced track) sounds promising.

While Still the Wicked Rest doesn’t pack the stirring, startto-finish, emotional experience of their last disc, it’s studded with understated gems and several tunes that are destined to become (or already are) live favorites.

 
 
 
 

 

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