C is for… Cloudkicker
(Image on loan from Cloudkicker's Bandcamp)
In around 2011 I discovered a number of heavy instrumental acts who rocked my bell, among them Scale the Summit, Chimp Spanner, Sithu Aye, the mighty Plini and Cloudkicker. This last is in fact a one-man act, and that man is Ben Sharp. Like a few of the others I discovered around this time, Ben writes, produces, programs and plays everything you hear, and releases his music on the splendid Bandcamp platform, rendering him truly a one-man-band.
Cloudkicker's music is very hard to categorise, though I wouldn't be a proper music journalist if I didn't at least attempt to pigeonhole him a little, so let's call it "heavy ambient guitar math prog metal". Then again, I'm not in fact a journalist of any kind at all, so I can call it what I want, and for now I shall just say it is very good indeed.
What it also is, is varied. I don't think Ben has any grand plan in place for his releases and just writes what he feels at the time, so his works vary a lot in tone and feel. Beacons is perhaps his best known release, and that is a structured melodic yet intricate metal album whereas Fade and Let Yourself Be Huge are far more mellow and introspective, and the Portmanteau and the bafflingly titled ]]][[[ EPs are just mental. The consistent through-line of all of his music would be ever shifting textural guitar patterns. Whether it's something angular and challenging like "Fourteen Nights" from Portmanteau or something more thoughtful like "LA After Rain" from Fade, Ben is a genius at creating ever-shifting fabric-like textures that change and morph subtly while seeming to stay at least recognisably the same. It's kind of the guitar equivalent of M.C. Escher's tessellating works such as "Day and Night", "Metamorphosis II" and "Sky and Water I".
Ben is not what I would call a shredder or even perhaps a lead guitarist in the most obvious sense, but he is a master of making interesting guitar music, much – perhaps all – of which you can download right now (and name your own price, mind you… yes literally…) from his Bandcamp site. I suggest you do. If any of this frightens you, start with Fade or Woum. If not, crack on with Beacons. Personally I would get it all – I know I did.
I reckon Beacons is a good place to start kicking clouds.
Mr. Kicker is not seemingly a particularly fanatical self promoter, and while he continues to produce and release music on a continual slow burn, finding live footage of him playing was quite a task. I mean it took me literally almost a minute on YouTube to find you the following, but find it I did. Here then, is Ben playing live with Intronaut as his backing band, performing "Push it way up!" from Beacons. I totally did find it though. Look.