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That crashing crescendo

Cloud Person's music finds the personal and the universal

Cloud Person make majestic, impactful folk-rock. Photo credit: Oceanna Tout Photography

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Different generations of people have their own touchstones when it comes to nakedly emotional catharsis in music. This type of sound can come from just about any time and genre - from Bruce Springsteen to Nick Drake, from the Smiths to Del Shannon, from Arcade Fire to Kendrick Lamar. Any artist that isn't afraid to engage with the personal and the universal with the kind of bravery that evades most pop music, can stand as someone uniquely able to access the hearts and minds of listeners.

For a certain group of people, the pinnacle of this type of music can be found on Neutral Milk Hotel's monumental ‘98 album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The sprawling LP found Jeff Mangum and his army of multi-instrumentalists ruminating over love, death, sex and Anne Frank, delivering a barrage of words and ideas with a kind of fervor that crackled with passion. For Mangum, it may have proven too emotionally draining, as that would be the last piece of music he released before retreating into a hermit-like existence.

Some people would find it sacrilegious to compare Cloud Person (or any number of other bands) to Neutral Milk Hotel and that towering achievement, but it's true that Cloud Person share elements with Mangum's music, though the distinctions are evident. Cloud Person is a Seattle five-piece that similarly uses folk-rock as merely the bed upon which they lay a variety of sounds. They neatly avoid the trendy mold of glossy indie folk that descended on Seattle about five years ago, rather building upon folk with layers of psychedelia, anthemic rock and cacophonous noise.

Cloud Person seem like a band particularly moved by a building crescendo. "Hospital King," off of their recent Centrifuge EP, is a little over five minutes of tension rising, before calamitously crashing in its final measures. Prickly violin plucking provides a spindly backbone in the lovely early minutes, before fuzzy guitars and bombastic drums come in to disrupt the proceedings and carry the song to its soaring conclusion.

At this point in Cloud Person's career, it's easy to forget their origins as first a solo project, then as a three-piece acoustic band. The full band is so locked in and dedicated to their larger sound that it's a little hard to picture these songs as stripped-down numbers. "Pariah" is all swirling interplay from the chiming guitars, beatific violin, eager drums and swelling keyboards. Certainly, there are moments that do recall the more pastoral feel of their earlier work, but now it comes off more like Blind Pilot's more recent material: the skeleton of the early days is there, but now it's been dressed with a majestic wall of sound.

Making a band sound as huge as possible is a neat trick, but it would be worth nothing more than a cheap trick if it wasn't accompanied by affecting lyrics and committed performances, which Cloud Person possess in spades. Lines like "I can see myself in the way you writhe" and "you bristle so hard at the suggestion that you could take the wheel and save the day" are the kind of lyrics that, in the wrong hands, could come off over-written or bathetic, but Cloud Person find the inherent interconnectedness and melancholy in these sentiments that can really make them sing. The personal and the universal are expertly targeted and their emotional resonance is wrung into the basin of Cloud Person's music.

As I said earlier, the effectiveness with which any artist is able to access your heart differs from person to person. In their forthright and brazen shots at catharsis, though, I find that Cloud Person come closer than most.

Cloud Person, w/ Coma Figura, Wow, Laura, Saturday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m., $5, New Frontier Lounge, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253.572.4020

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