Record Review: As Glowing Cloud, EPs from PVD musician Eric Smith are a collective love letter to fuzzy guitars and damp basements

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When the pandemic hit pause on Providence alt-power rock trio Sweet Dreams, singer/guitarist and main songwriter Eric Smith still had the need to play and decided to take things to the next level, literally. “I built a basement studio and invented Glowing Cloud as a way to stay busy, use some of the songs that the band wasn’t able to get to, and also write new stuff,” Smith explains. “A few of these songs, namely ‘Psychic Children’, ‘Glocester Space Boy’ and parts of ‘Hangin’ Around’ were practiced with Sweet Dreams but I stole them for Glowing Cloud.”

To listen to the collective works of Glowing Cloud is to experience the personal journey inside to see what comes out. The spark of a chordal progression or a lick oftentimes opens into something much larger. With the abandoned spirit of John Cougar Mellencamp and The Flaming Lips – carrying through lyrically and sonically in terms of chorus and chord progressions – instrumentally the EPs strike this writer as experimental efforts. The music emerges from the layers and overdubs that all emanate from a single source rather than out of a collective effort.

At the mention of his work existing in a spectrum of psychedelia, Smith responds, “I’m not sure I know what makes something psychedelic or not, but for me it’s a blending wash of sound, where maybe you can’t really tease out who’s playing what, and a lo-fi aesthetic where you let the rough edges stay rough, you let the grainy textures
exist, or you use the first take of a drum track, mistakes and all.” Smith muses, “Let it be mixed improperly. Let it be homemade. Let it sound like the inside of your brain.”

Describing his process, Smith notes that everything starts with a basic “scratch track,” which is either a raw vocal and guitar guide track, or sequenced electronic drums, as used for the entirety of In Over My Mind. “After the basics are there, I start layering way more guitars and synthesizers than I’d originally imagined. ‘Glocester Space Boy’ has something like 29 tracks, which is completely ridiculous. There’s no need for that many tracks on a song that isn’t by Queen.”

Over My Mind has very crisp, in-ear vocals that remain largely unaffected compared to the heavily layered musical accompaniment. With just a hint of Neil Young-esque simple clarity, every word sits atop a plush cushion. The words convey a sense of articulation that is largely opposite to the music in that the instrumentation is a collection of drums, synths, heavily fuzzed guitars, and various other sounds that work as a tapestry and are less contingent on standing apart as solo melodic pieces.

“It’s my love of shoegaze and lo-fi that allows me to leave it like that, instead of trying to separate and polish the individual instruments,” says Smith. “My first recordings were on a four-track tape deck 30 years ago and I’ll never not like that feel.”

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