CLUSTERSUN: Hot & bright Psychedelic rock / Shoegaze from Sicily
Clustersun is a band from sunny Sicily, land of sun and legends. They did 2 albums so far and the progression from one to the other is spectacular. Breathing Surfacing to Breathe has been quoted in many 2017 polls and lists as one of the topmost Shoegaze albums of the year.
The band is widely considered to be one of the pillars of the Shoegaze scene in Italy. Having been awarded the GLOBUS prize for Sicilian artistic excellence, Clustersun has established themselves as one of the most promising acts in the new international shoegaze scene. Being cited alongside bands that they love and admire is a great motivation to constantly push forward their limits.
Clustersun's line-up is:
- Marco Chisari (vocals & bass),
- Mario Lo Faro (guitars),
- Piergiorgio Campione (synthesizers, keyboards & backing vocals),
- Andrea Conti (drums).
They tell us of their adventure with their own candid words:
"Everything started in 2013 just as a mutual enjoyment between four longtime friends and Shoegaze/Psych/Wave addicted that love jamming at super loud volumes. We all grew up listening to The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground; then we fell in love with Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Swervedriver, Chapterhouse, The Brian Jonestowne Massacre, Spiritualized, Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, Spacemen 3, The Depreciation Guild, Neu!, Can… we could go on for years!
We also adore contemporary acts like Ringo Deathstarr, A Place To Bury Strangers, Cheathas, Minor Victories, Flyying Colours, Pinkshinyultrablast, Nothing, Beach House, The KVB, Eagulls, Spectres, Preoccupations, The Black Angels, The Oscillation.
So, after a few weeks spent drenching melodies with fuzz and reverb we had yet a bunch of song drafts and started thinking to giving a name to our project.
One of these first drafts was called “Cluster Sun”, mainly because it had a section reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s instrumental track “Cluster One” (changing the title that way was a joke and a tribute at the same time), so when we talked of the band’s name all of us agreed that this one could perfectly work, but written as one word: it has a kind of trippy, spacey vibe and we instantly thought could represents really well the music and the aesthetics we intended to deliver.
Then we were lucky enough to be noticed by Paolo Messere of Seahorse Recordings very soon, thanks to our first self produced single “Be Vegetal”. So, after just a few months from the beginning of the band’s life, Paolo brought us in studio for recording “Out Of Your Ego” with sound engineer Giuseppe Barbera.
Watching our songs taking shape in studio was so much exciting, but the best was yet to come. When the album came out, in April 2014, the reactions were amazing, both in Italy and worldwide, and on the wave of lead single “Hipgnosis” we gained great appreciation in the shoegaze scene.
In 2015 we also had the chance to support the album with a tour that led us in the US, playing in NYC, Boston, Philadelphia and other cities on the Eastern part of the States, thanks to the help of Dave Allison of Custom Made Music label: that was easily one of the best experiences in our entire life.
At the beginning of 2017 we were so honored to be involved by Renato Malizia of legendary The Blog That Celebrates Itself in a tribute compilation to Slowdive, one of the bands that we love most. We contributed with a rendition of “Morningrise”: Filippo Strang did an outstanding job mixing and mastering the track at VDSS Recording Studio and we really love how it came out. It was not the first experience of this kind for us, because we also contributed to the Echo & The Bunnymen tribute, out via The Blog That Celebrates Itself too in 2016
Then, in May 2017 we came out with our sophomore album “Surfacing To Breathe”, available via Seahorse Recordings on vinyl, cd and digital formats. The new album was highly praised in Italy and worldwide as one of the main shoegaze/psych releases, and appears now in so many “Best Of 2017” charts.
Two singles were extracted from it: “Raw Nerve” (pushed by a trippy videoclip directed by Samir Kharrat and Adriano Spadaro of Visualazer), and “Lonely Moon” (with a surreal and dreamy clip edited by French videomaker Psyche Coaster).
We are currently supporting “Surfacing To Breathe” touring in Italy, but we’ll soon come to play in middle-eastern Europe and will also be back live in the US."
"Our music could be described as a mix of shoegaze, psych, postpunk, space-rock and dreampop, shaked and delivered at super loud volumes. The main goal we’d love to achieve is just bringing the listener in an otherworldly dimension and creating a sort of space-time suspension."
Why we like them!
- Arrangements: All songs are different both in genre and composition. But what struck me most was the arrangements, these little tricks that make a song going from flat to alive. The band varies them with every piece, giving them a personality. This is difficult and requires a great sense of music.
- Sound. The progression and work of the sound between the first and second album are staggering.
- Not in the mold. A bit of Shoegaze, some Psychedelic rock, a hint of early 80's music, the band succeeded in appropriating influences and transforming them into something of their own.
- Because they are really really nice. Since the first contacts on social media, then in this collaboration, a real gentleness transpires from the band. Always supportive of Noise Artists and all the bands featured from the beginning, the band have always been there for us, never asking anything in return.
The comparison game
- BRMC: While they sound different, there are many elements common to the 2 bands: a mix of pop and psychedelic rock, a tendency not to get into the high BPM songs,
- 80's bands: While not sounding at all like 70 & 80's bands, there is a sense of composition, of grandeurs that remind me of acts like Pink Floyd, Queen or Marillion. Maybe a bit of musical "mise en scene" that brings the music form a song towards a performance.
Surfacing To Breathe, album, May 2017
"Three years after the debut album “Out Of Your Ego” (2014) we tried to raise the sonic bar with “Surfacing To Breathe” (2017) delivering a more complex and layered mixture of shoegazey reverberations, massive walls of sound and psychedelic soundscapes.
There’s a cosmic/space-y dark vibe that surronds all the 8 songs, matched with a dreamlike sense of melancholy and emotional fragility coming from the lyrics. While “Out Of Your Ego” had a focus on ethereal and cold atmospheres, this one shows a more muscular sound, emphasizing at max the dynamic range.
All the tracks on this new album came out in a very spontaneous way and also in quite a short time, rehearsing between one gig and another, and that explains their more “on steroid” feel.
The great goal for us was having Alessio Pindinelli (also guitar and vocals in La Casa Al Mare) and Fabio Galeone mixing “Surfacing To Breathe” at Wax Recording Studio in Rome: their work in giving shape to our sonic ideas was simply outstanding (Alessio also co-produced the album with us).
Also the mastering, provided by Carl Saff in Chicago, was just the icing on the cake: he pushed the album with a super loud, full and deep sound. Another blessing was the collaboration with Ilaria Facci, internationally acclaimed italian photographer based in London, that curated the album’s artwork."
This a dark album, with a consistency of sound, title, and artwork. Superb performance from the band.
1. Raw Nerve 04:08
"It’s the album’s lead single and manifesto. Pure wall of sound with a menacing bass line, thunderous drums, hyper dense synths, stormy guitars and washed out dreamy vocals. The trippy videoclip directed for it by Samir Kharrat and Adriano Spadaro of Visualazer reached more than 40.000 views on YouTube and pushed the LP a lot. "
It is indeed a menacing song, alternating with a wall of sound. The beginning has an industrial feeling like steel grating against steel and the rest unfold smoothly.
2. Antagonize Me 03:39
"Psych-gaze anthem for paranoids. It talks about inner fears and shows another full onslaught of fuzz&reverb: perfect track to blast your neighbourhood. "
Works very well as an anthem, with a heavy beat drowned in fuzz and reverb. Raise your fist, bang your head, jump on the spot and let yourself be lost in this song.
3. Lonely Moon 04:01
It’s the second single (which was released via Seahorse Recordings this summer and premiered via Rolling Stone), written with Slowdive in heart and mind. It’s an immersive, soft and dense song that embraces you gently. The videoclip edited for it by French videomaker Psyche Coaster is pure visual delight!
And indeed, there is this Slowdive feeling in the guitars and the slomo choice. Mario's voice, in a higher pitch, that Neil's .... it fits beautifully.
The beginning of the bridge part is a homage to Slowdive's "When the Sun Hits" with very similar chords and bass line. Maybe my favorite song on the album. And the video, presented below, is indeed mesmerizing.
The visually impressive video, created by French videomaker Psyche Coaster, shows a man falling down into a futuristic scenario of urban devastation and obscurity, who then ultimately reaches a light of hope at the very end - all of this a powerful allegory depicting a person's inner torment.
4. The Whirling Dervish 08:04
"A psych suite featuring a tiny tribute to one of our earliest influences, Pink Floyd. It’s a journey with plenty of variations in tempo and dynamic range."
5. Don't Let The Weight Of Your Soul Drag You Down 03:41
"Instrumental track intended to give a sort of ascensional feeling, as it keeps growing in intensity, layers and volume from the beginning to the end."
That's exactly what you get, progressing very nicely, adding layers of textures and colours through guitar effects and synth pads. It is powerful. Try to listen to this very loud. Works extremely well.
6. Surfacing To Breathe 06:2
"The title track is a dark-psych suite on steroids with a trippy middle section that create a suspended and lysergic atmosphere before exploding in a glorious finale."
It does. It is a powerful song, full of everything that makes Clustersun good. There is an ominous side to it and you can relate to somebody trying to catch their breath after staying too long underwater, going towards the relief.
The calm period in the song is that: you are on the surface and you enjoy breathing, one of the most elementary needs we have. Very calm, then everything explodes but the ominous side is gone. A celebration of life, of breathing, of elements?
7. Emotional Painkiller 05:12
"For lovers of new wave and 80’s style infectious bass riff: this is definitely our “catchy” tune."
8. Event Horizon 05:55
"The album ends with this powerful and obscure song, introduced by an epic and heavily effected drum pattern; it talks about the sense of powerlessness and distance."
This song is just the perfect end to the album: an epic finish for the band that is evolving towards a more ample sound. You can picture this song as the end trailer song of any movie. May be the reference to 1997 scifi movie.
In general relativity, an event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman's terms, it is defined as the shell of "points of no return", i.e., the points at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible, even for light. An event horizon is most commonly associated with black holes. Light emitted from inside the event horizon can never reach the outside observer.
Out Of Your Ego, Album, April 2014
"Our debut album, featuring 8 tracks full of liquid shoegaze goodness, cold wave soundscapes and psychedelic journeys, surrounding crystal clear dream pop melodies. “Out Of Your Ego”, was recorded, mixed and produced by Paolo Messere at Eye & Ear Multimedia Studio in Fiumedinisi, Italy, with sound engineer Giuseppe Barbera. Mastering provided by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering, Chicago.
Front cover and all artwork was conceived and shot by the young and talented Brooke DiDonato, fine art photographer in New York City, USA.
The first single chosen, “Hipgnosis”, summarizes the band signature sound: hypnotic-obsessive bass lines, dark and cold drum pattern, a strongly expressive guitar with a range that goes from ambient ethereal mood to fuzz-and-reverb madness, fat analog synths and dreamy melodies."
- All music and lyrics composed and written by Marco Chisari and Mario Lo Faro
- Recorded, mixed and produced by Paolo Messere at Eye & Ear Multimedia Studio in Fiumedinisi (Messina, ITA)
- Sound engineer Giuseppe Barbera
The song from this album has the same quality that the second's one. The big difference is in the production that was not as well fine-tuned as in "Surface to Breathe". Some of our favourite songs on the album are:
1. Hipgnosis 04:40
5. NEBULA 05:01
This song is upbeat, and maybe their happiest. I like happy songs hence the selection here. The chorus has everything really coming together: great round bass, the voices, synth pads that literally travel all around the aural spectrum, and reverb guitars that fits beautifully, supported by drums that have almosts an electronic quality. All that work s extremely well for me.
8. Clustersun 07:13
The song, eponymous of the the band's name, is not unlike Mogwai's "Mogwai fear Satan" one of my favourite songs ever. Ominous, dark, with something looming behind the reverb and the pads... Love it!
Think I Need It Too, from VA - Gods Will Be Gods - A Reverence To The Bunnymen by TBTCI Records.
Morning rise, from Just for a Life, An Homage to Slowdive by TBTCI records
Some artists they have worked with
"We had the chance to share the stage with many amazing artists, but we’d love to spend some words for our great American friend Tom Lugo, from Philadelphia. He’s a stunningly talented musician (active with many projects like Panophonic, Stellarscope, ShiShi, and also owner of the label Patetico Recordings) and an amazing human being. Also, during our US tour in 2015, we met cracking bands like Lazy Queen, The One2s, Arlen, Dead Scouts, You People, Toy Cannons, Allora Mis, Al &The Bikes, Big Mess. Check them out, they’re really worth it. "
WHERE to find their work?
Some good videos to watch
Apart from the music videos that are included above, the following live performance is worth watching, if only to confirm the quality of their live sound:
And if you understand Italian, a very informative 42 minutes TV interview and performance can be watched there:
Other Italian bands that they recommend
Provide some bands from your country (current one, not classics), that would be worthwhile listening.
"La Casa al Mare, Rev Rev Rev, Stella Diana, Novanta, Electric Floor, In Her Eye, My Invisible Friend, Be Forest, Soviet Soviet, Brothers In Law, Sonic Jesus, The Gluts, Arirang, Klam, Bialogard, Kimono Lights, Good Morning Finch, Weird, Leave The Planet, Jambox, The Yellow Traffic Light, 86Sandals, Purple Got Me Slow Mo, The Mystic Morning, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Human Colonies, Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!, Pipe’s Not Dead, The Whip Hand, Obree"
"Seahorse Recordings and Paolo Messere; Lorenzo D’Antoni at Tri Tubba Press and Shauna McLarnon at Shameless Promotion PR; Hiwatt UK and Rob Cavanna; Roberto Forlano at O’live Produzioni; Claudio Litrico at Reverb Booking; Govind Khurana at New Model Label; Alessio Pindinelli and Fabio Galeone at Wax Recording Studio; Filippo Strang at VDSS Recording Studio; Samir Kharrat, Adriano Spadaro, Michele Conticello, Alessio Mastroianni at Visualazer; Psyche Coaster; Ilaria Facci; Marco Spalla; Simone Conti."
A big thank you to the band for their kindness and all the work they put into this article!
We hope you enjoyed this piece, and above all that you liked what you read and listened. And please do not forget to share their music and to support the band (buy their music, follow and share their social media).