Cloud Holding is NYC-based Bryce Hackford’s fifth full-length work, and his first with Futura Resistenza. Seven figures emerge out of recorded improvisations with a group of musicians: Ka Baird, Shelley Burgon, Alice Cohen, Michael Hurder, Dominika Mazurová, Camilla Padgitt-Coles. The instrumental utterances (including the original instrument—the voice) of these varied talents are gently treated and coaxed by the composer, nudged into little sculptures of sound which express an always drifting present.
The album follows Safe (Exits), a collection of minimalist beat orientations delivered by Spring Theory in 2020. Cloud Holding answers its predecessor with deliberately inverted qualities: treated acoustic instruments rather than electronic, no drums or low end, mostly vocal, and mostly different contributors. The contrasting qualities of the two albums are derived from a familiar composition strategy: the sounds were made by musicians who often could not hear each other while performing. With this method, Hackford channels directly into the synchronicity of collaborative music-making, casting formless songs from disparate materials spangled with mysterious affinity.
Although harmonious, Cloud Holding does not shy from dissonance. The rubbing up of sounds is embraced for its lilting intimacy, its conversational melody. Though gentle, there are uncanny moments: the pulsing raga with its quietly rattling insistence that is “Is Anyone Home;” the anomalous chord and stick dragging along a chain-link fence in “Cloud Holding Sculpture.” Stranger moments are always balanced with welcome, though: particularly the buoyant dream song couple of “Anticipation Clip (Field Hope)” and “Cassette Mascara Parade,” mallets and swirl and croon.