Space Suits is the debut solo offering of Cloud Repair, otherwise known as Richard Wells. Wells is a South Carolina native who’s taken a step back from his other projects to focus on honing his own sound. In Wells’ own words, Space Suits is about circumstance and control, and those themes come through clearly whether in the form of crisp, chorusy guitar licks carrying Space Suits’ dreamy melodies or the grungy underpinning of distortion comprising the backbone of several tracks.
“Be Bold, Be Bold” opens the album with a hazy instrumental track. A lone guitar with gritty modulation cuts through the sound like a cigarette burn and extends into a melodic foundation for the background vocals to layer on. The piece serves as a kind of dream guide, taking the listener by the ear and bringing them into the ethereal soundscape of the album while giving a preview of the elements that will comprise the rest of its songs. “Hear Me, Girl” quickly dispels any notion that the album will be all ambience and atmosphere, as it kicks in with driving drum loops and a grungy guitar that almost seems more at home in a 70s rock outfit. Both serve Space Suits’ unique feel and are themselves served well by the bright piano hits that turn into a hypnotic melody towards the end of the song. “Snowshoes” slows things down again, allowing the listener to drift for a while until a tempo change with electronic overlays lead into the next track.
“Mountain Bloom” is a perfect snapshot of this album and everything it’s about, and Kiersten Chow’s haunting vocals are the perfect compliment for Wells’ dreamy style. The track is full of call and response, often featuring chorusy guitar picking that falls like soft rain behind Chow’s soulful but distant voice. All these elements together communicate a sense of longing, a desire to reach out and touch what cannot be held, the dimly perceived outline of the object of one’s desires behind a smoky and immovable veil.
“Polar Bear” quickly brings the album back up to pace with drifting, playful vocals over an almost poppy melody. “Moving Fast, Moving Slow” continues this trend, though with a bit more of a ragged edge to open it up. The punchy synth sounds of “Video Games” relaxes the tone a bit, acting as a reprieve from the two harder tracks before it and bridging the gap into the calmer outro of the album.
“Diamond” is a cool, almost jazzy track full of smooth synth work and soothing vocals from Wells. It seems to be a kind of lament and yet plays more like a subtle invitation. “The Odd Motions” and the bonus track “You’re in Love With Someone New” close the album out by returning to that almost poppy song structure from earlier tracks but both bring Wells’ grasp of ghostly synth and vocal combinations to the forefront.
Space Suits is an almost perfect debut offering and will hopefully be the first of many for Cloud Repair. Many artists struggle to use heavy synth work for dreamy soundscapes without letting it overpower the melodic core of their sound, but Wells walks this line with clearly demonstrated discernment. There’s a moment about halfway through the bonus track which really encapsulates the album to me where the sound drops and a single (slightly distorted) instrument carries the tune for several measures before the song kicks back in. It feels like something about to bottom out, a memory about to be forgotten, a photograph on the verge of fading. Space Suits beautifully captures the all too relatable sensation of watching something fade and wanting desperately not to let it.