Glenn Murawski – Cloud Remasters Volume 4

 Glenn Murawski – Cloud Remasters Volume 4

Glenn Murawski – Cloud Remasters Volume 4 – Album Review

I know exactly what you’re thinking.

You recognize the name Glenn Murawski…no doubt about that.  After something like a dozen reviews here at our pages and spots on the SBS Podcast, there’s no question he’s a familiar name here at SBS and likely to many of you out there in the world listening.  But it’s more than that this time around…and like I said, I know exactly what you’re thinking.  You see that name Glenn Murawski and you remember how frequently it’s popped up at SBS over this past year & a half…but then, you also realize that…wait a hot minute here – hasn’t it actually been quite a while since we last had him on our pages?  And then you research it for a second or two…it was only back in May of course, not long by the standards of any other artist or band out there in the world, but a seemingly lifetime away for an artist as relentlessly productive as Glenn Murawski is.  And for a moment, however brief it becomes…every artist & band that’s out there even giving half an effort to keep up with him, takes a huge sigh of relief in the fact that he’s obviously slowed down a ton if he hasn’t turned up since May.  Only, of course, he hasn’t – at all.

The first part is obvious based on the title – this is our first review in the ‘Cloud Remasters’ series and we’re gettin’ into the game at Volume 4 folks, which yes, indeed implies there are at LEAST three more records out there in between the last time we heard from him and now.  And then you do a little more digging…and you realize there is no way anyone out there in music-land could ever keep up to this guy – for Cloud Remasters Volume 4 is merely one of TWELVE albums Glenn’s put out in less-than five months or so.  As I’ve told ya many times, no one out there has commitment like Glenn Murawski has – and part of me suspects I might never find another who does…it’s 100% astounding how much music he makes.

As a result of just how much that really is…I ain’t gonna lie to ya, I’m going from memory here today.  A lot of Glenn’s records are a consistent hybrid between the past & the present, quite often resulting in early versions that come out before a remastered variation finds its way out there later on.  To research every title here back & forth to see if I’ve commented on it in the past already would likely take just about as long as it would to write one of these reviews – and if you’re familiar with the typical length of these rambling monstrosities I generate, you know that’s no joke at all – it would take forever!  So I’m not going that route here with Cloud Remasters Volume 4 this time around…I’ll tell ya what stands-out to me like a song I knew beforehand, but from what I understand, the majority of this record is all-new to me.  In any event, as I already know – whether it’s new Murawski or old Murawski, it quite honestly doesn’t really matter when it comes to the timeline of his work; he’s always got something great for you to experience, and from as far back as I can remember & have been listening myself, he always has.

Curiously & quaintly, “Night Star” starts out Cloud Remasters Volume 4 on highly delicate & dreamy terrain as the record begins.  Choosing wisely with a song that allows for so much room to grow with the tracks to follow, “Night Star” has a fascinating sound to it that gives you just enough of everything you’ll need to keep you entertained & fully onboard for what’s to come after.  Despite what people tend to think, there are no rules when it comes to the layout of any given record – but with that being said, the tried, tested, and true method of starting a new experience with a gentle intro-style cut is never a bad move…like I said, it instantly gives any artist or band plenty of room to expand the album from there and wow us with even more to follow.  “Night Star” is certainly pleasant & enjoyable; its humble & sparse sound is clean & crystalline, and Glenn uses the space expertly to his advantage right from moment one.  He’ll put more memorable tunes on display throughout the lineup to follow without question, but that’s part of the art of the reveal folks…no one says you have to give everything away on the very first track.

“Chamber Of Dismay” is hardly as dismal as you might assume – in fact, it’s one of my favorite cuts early on in the lineup of Cloud Remasters Volume 4.  It’s a lengthy track at nearly seven-minutes long, but you’ll find the flexible versatility & expressive emotion within this song is more than worth the ride.  Possible that this could be one I’m familiar with, or it’s highly possible that I just gravitated continually towards what I felt was a completely memorable cut on this record – “Chamber Of Dismay” makes brilliant use of playful string sounds and absolutely jaw-dropping gorgeousness on the tainted piano-keys.  I couldn’t tell ya 100% what it is that Glenn is doing to generate such an impressive & captivating sound, but every time those notes break through to the surface, they just sound so warm & inviting that you pretty much wanna bathe in’em!  And therein lies the magic in much of “Chamber Of Dismay” – the cracks of light that continually seep through the curious & mysterious melody you’ll find…the warm glow that this song develops & generates draws us listeners towards it like a moth to a flame.  Thankfully, we don’t get burned – we get rewarded for listening close to the subtle nuances & fusion of emotion that Glenn is capable of creating so well, and a composition that’s as ambitious as it is entertaining in-full.

You’ll find a lot of references to outer-space, water, and winter run throughout Glenn’s music – and if you’re putting all those pieces together, you’ll find a more common theme that bonds them all, which is that place of isolation.  Perhaps an unintentional reveal of the man behind the music, but one that might speak to how it gets created all the same – “Below The Surface” is an excellent example of how his sounds & ideas run deep into the beyond.  Cuts like this one remind me a lot of that feeling you’d get when pushing play on DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… record back in the day…that hybrid experience of analog-meets-digital, where you genuinely can’t tell which is which without the most discerning of musical ears.  If you were looking for a beat to drive one of these tunes on Cloud Remasters Volume 4, that’s where “Below The Surface” comes into play early on in this lineup of fourteen tracks to supply – what you’ll hear shimmering along the top of the mix is great and will catch your attention without question, but every time you get a moment with the bombastic design of the drums, it also creates genuine excitement from your speakers well worth commenting on.  I like that what you’ll hear driving the melody of “Below The Surface” somewhat comes & goes in that respect; you’ll get giant doses of intense violin in the mix, but you’ll also find sections along the way that really let those drums shine too.

“A World Unknown” is the second-shortest cut on the record by just a hair at only 2:33 in length…and I think for myself personally, this was the first genuinely spellbinding moment in this new collection of Glenn’s tunes that I found here.  Obviously I’ve enjoyed myself to this point on the record already – this isn’t a knock against the other songs, I’m simply expressing how much love I’ve got for this impressively isolated & sweet moment in time he’s created on “A World Unknown.”  Perhaps the best way I can put it to you potential listeners out there, is that you’re bound to get the same chills down your spine and that feeling of experiencing a moment beyond words that you’d find in the emotional-intensity of a Sigur Ros tune…and if you’re a fan of that incredibly moving band, you know exactly the kind of powerful melody you’ll find at the core of this mesmerizing gem.  It’s like he’s got my world on pause whenever this song comes around again in the lineup of tunes on Cloud Remasters Volume 4…the way he so effortlessly transitions from what appears to be a haunting tune at the very outset, into the widespread beautiful sound you’ll discover shortly afterwards…it’s just artistic awesomeness all-around folks, straight-up.  At just over two-thirty in length, it’s highway robbery that we only get to spend such a short time with such a revelatory experience…but when it comes to a song as immaculate as this is, I’ll take what I can get.

The Lone Soldier” is a cut that can definitely be recognized by title and a tune I know I’m familiar with.  And for some reason…I still have the feeling we’re not 100% done with this song.  Ultimately you’d never find me complaining about this track, I think there’s a ton of gripping intensity & hooks on display when it comes to “The Lone Soldier” – but I’m not sure if it’s the beat for this tune, or that it needs more or one or a different one altogether…it just feels like there’s still more to be explored in this tune still.  What I’ve liked about this cut in the past & what I still love about it now, is that “The Lone Soldier” is one of Glenn’s tunes that really feels like it’s telling you a story, even without the use of a single word.  You feel the odyssey this song generates, and the compelling hooks he creates in the music are what keep you readily attached from moment to moment as it plays on.  Keep in mind, when it comes to mining tunes for more, that’s kind of why we’re here and discussing tracks by Murawski more than once so often…it’s almost become natural to expect that somewhere along the lines, he’ll continue to tinker his songs back & forth…and as to when they’re ever really ‘done’ is perhaps anyone’s guess, even his own.  Whatever that sound is though…he knows the one…it’s like a bird-chirp or a strange fret slide with an effect on it or something – it SOUNDS like an old cassette-tape in a player where the wheels would stick and squeak slightly if you’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing out a deck or two like I did in my day – I literally have no idea what it actually is, but I know what I love when I hear it.  Just keep in mind, when it comes to tiny fragments of a song that’ll make me obsess over a tune that would likely fly by most people listening, you know I’m likely to go right down the rabbit-hole as far as it’ll lead me, every time, and twice as likely whenever we’re talking about the music of Glenn Murawski.  I don’t expect that everyone would hear what I hear all the time and be all like, YES – THAT’S IT – that bird chirpin’ is THE defining moment, sound, aspect, or attribute “The Lone Soldier” has – and to be completely fair, it’s not really, but it makes the difference for me.  I dig the parts a lot of listeners tend to look over I guess.  I’m weird when it comes to listening to music & what tends to grab my attention; I make no apologies for it.

Like I was tellin’ ya about space & water in the themes of Murawski’s music, he combines’em both on “Ocean Moon” – and after you have a listen, try to tell me that it’s not the perfect title for this tune!  You can picture yourself soaring through the depths of the ocean blue, you can picture yourself floating out in your little tin can in space like Major Tom and looking out the window at the planet you used to call home…maybe you see something else entirely – but one way or the other, you’ll find more often than not that Glenn’s music is completely capable of forming pictures in your mind and taking you away to somewhere else altogether through his songs.  “Ocean Moon” is among the finest examples of all this – and another genuine highlight on Cloud Remasters Volume 4 – the piano is exceptionally exquisite, and much like I felt towards “A World Unknown,” this song locks you right into place for every moment as you listen to it evolve and expand to surround & envelop you.  When those first piano notes creep into the mix around the fifty-second mark, it’s like the audible cherry on top – and from that moment on, there’s no place in the world I know I’d rather be than sitting & listening to “Ocean Moon.”  Same applies to the spot around 2:25…Murawski’s loaded this composition up with a masterful use of space and designed every tone & note to be heard, felt, noticed, and appreciated – I absolutely love this song.  It’s moments where I hear a song from him as strong and compelling as “Ocean Moon” is, that it makes perfect sense to me as to why promoters & musicians have contacted me personally regarding the music he makes and how to get in touch with the guy, which I spoke about the last time we played him on the SBS Podcast if I’m not mistaken.  In any event – in a world where it can often seem like we’re not heard – I can tell ya firsthand that there are many people noticing just how incredible this dude really is.

With its rhythmic pulse leading the way, “True North” immediately stands out in the transition between sounds & styles as we exit “Ocean Moon” and finish the first-half of this album.  An exciting combination of upbeat energy and highly expressive sound, “True North” ends up being quite the ride.  Making several stops along the way to gather more instrumentation in the mix and fuel the melody with a superbly unique hybrid arrangement – “True North” livens-up Cloud Remasters Volume 4 in a way that makes perfect sense to our ears as the album continues.  That’s actually saying quite a bit when it comes to the difference in sound & styles on display between “Ocean Moon” and “True North” – for these two songs to exist back-to-back and still sound like they belong to the same record is quite impressive really.  I love the low-end the cello provides, and the sweet way the melody floats on the surface with such bold expression & emotion surging out into the wide-open…”True North” probably arguably has a more accessible tempo & style to it that’ll grab the attention of even more listeners out there…it’s a solid cut.

Ultimately though, he knows me as a writer & listener just as much as I know him as a musician at this point – so he already knows that, while tracks like “The Lone Soldier” or “True North” are appealing to me in their own way, what is really gonna connect with me personally are the vibes & atmospheres he explores so brilliantly in the lower-key moments like “Ocean Moon,” “A World Unknown,” or “Wish I Could Fly.”  Like I was sayin’ to ya earlier…I don’t expect everyone out there to hear what I hear, I just know what works for me.  “Wish I Could Fly” doesn’t quite hit the same high-marks as these other two cuts I’ve mentioned in “Ocean Moon” or “A World Unknown” that explore similarly spaced-out ideas and the beauty in melancholy melodies – but it does get close enough to be mentioned in the same sentence with’em.  It might be one of the rare cases where “Wish I Could Fly” almost over-develops as it plays on…even though I love the splash of the cymbals ushering in a post-punk Cure-esque synth-wave into the song, I gotta admit, it’s the first ninety seconds of supreme subtlety in action that has me coming back to this song over & over.  As far as the opening minute & a half of any song on this record is concerned, I’d put it right up there with the best of the best in a heartbeat; I’m not opposed to the way it carries on, but I definitely felt like the most endearing moments of “Wish I Could Fly” were up front.

“Prayers For Sleeping” definitely sounds as familiar as it is comforting to me…and without peeking, I’d be willing to bet on this being one of the songs I’ve commented on in the past.  I think the downward progression of the main melody line is outstanding; it’s a fairly simple design in that respect when it comes to Glenn’s music, but with all of everything taking place around it, you’ll certainly hear that no less work or attention to detail have been put into this song than any other you’d find.  The quality is remarkably consistent, from the ideas to the music to the execution – and “Prayers For Sleeping” is definitely a strong addition to the lineup of the second-half of this record.  Maybe a touch of melodrama here & there at the peak of the swell & warm glow of the song surrounding ya…but nothing so strange that you’d ever think of reaching to turn it off or turn it down; and for what it’s worth, I’d assume it’s every bit as sincere as the rest of his music.  Like I always say, we’ve got our favorite moments in any given song just as much as we love any given song by our favorite artists & bands – it’s all relative – you might hear that aspect of “Prayers For Sleeping” fill the extra space towards the end and feel like it’s the perfect way to have brought on a finale-style ending to this song and you’d get no argument from me.  Bottom line is, there’s plenty on display throughout the layers & depth in “Prayers For Sleeping” that is bound to stand-out to ya for one reason or another – no reason to complain about a strong cut like this.

Cloud Remasters Volume 4 continues on with an “Ominous” song in the set-list that lives up to its titular implications right off the bat.  While it is a fairly static & lengthy intro on the way in with about a minute’s worth of spread out sound comin’ atcha slowly, there’s also no arguing against Glenn achieving the ambition of the idea driving this track.  You get about 2:15 into the song before it’ll start to spark up a bit…and from that moment forward, I’d say he’s likely on solid ground with anyone out there listening; before that, it’s harder to say…”Ominous” doesn’t shy away from taking its time to develop, but I felt like the journey to get where it’s going was well worth it by the end.  Overall, I’d definitely go to bat for this being one of the more mesmerizing & hypnotic vibes you’ll find on the record…the brightness of the synth sounds will jolt ya a bit as it heads into its final ninety-seconds or so before the final breakdown to exit out of “Ominous” from where it all began – there’s a great full-circle of completion that’s highly satisfying in that symmetrical sense when it comes to this song.  Those first low notes that punch in after the first minute really give it an epic feeling that is as large & looming like a shadow as it is “Ominous.”

“Thoughts In Shroud” isn’t a bad idea at all, just kind of like…almost surprising to have found included I suppose…or at the very least, that’s how I felt when I was spinning this cut for the first couple times through.  Sound-wise, it inarguably fits right in with the majority of this set-list, so on that level, I got it right away.  At the very beginning, the simplicity of the design & structure seemed like Glenn might not somehow pull this one off and find a way to entertain us enough by comparison to the rest of the lineup on this record…but like I said, that was at the start.  Upon repeat spins and in knowing what’s to come, “Thoughts In Shroud” ends up being one of the tracks you’ll find evolves at just the right pace after all…and by the time you’re at the heart of its melody & layers of instrumentation combined, there’s more than a good chance that Glenn will wow you once again with the ingenuity on display.  Piece by piece, brick by brick – “Thoughts In Shroud” becomes a genuine lesson in patience and what it means to let sound works its magic on you over time.  As Murawski shifts the sound from one dimension to the other and layers in new ideas to strengthen the emotion in the melody and ever-curious nature of the mood in the music, “Thoughts In Shroud” becomes essential to this album by the time it’s all said & done.  Probably the best candidate on the album to be the unsung hero really…it’s in listening to this cut several times over and getting right into its carefully placed & intricate design that you start to truly appreciate how everything is actually right where it should be & where you’d wanna find it – and once you’re fully dialed-in to this idea & kind of know what’s coming atcha, it becomes supremely addictive.

“Years Gone By” sounds like my kind of tune, and to a large degree it is.  I’d probably say this cut finds its real strengths towards the end overall, but I enjoyed the pensive tension and isolated melancholy to be found as it started too, almost like Glenn was just sitting at the piano alone, meandering & lost in his own thoughts.  And maybe he was…maybe it’s an organic moment in time like that, who knows…but the end results have that kind of avant-garde & free design to it…almost like we’re right there with him as he discovers the melody that takes over around ninety-seconds in.  For that moment alone folks, I’m tellin’ ya that “Years Gone By” is worth the price of admission…I don’t know how an artist goes about getting a song to feel like we’re right there with them as they create it, but that’s what “Years Gone By” brings to the table in a way not many other songs, if any, that I can think of can do.  Listening to that spot at the ninety-second mark…and feeling like we’re peering over Glenn’s shoulder as this melody comes together, right there in the room with him for this intimate & enchanting moment in time – it’s just freakin’ spectacular.  Subtle as it gets when it comes right down to it, but man it makes an impact.

The violin/beat combination that takes place at the surge of the energy coming into “Ephemeral” was another moment that stood out for all the right reasons.  I might have been a little tempted to let the piano rest & the other elements of the music take over here as this tune began, but at other times, it definitely felt like it fit the vibe too…it’s a hard call.  Glenn does a ton of things and a ton of things right – so I can 100% appreciate that being a solo-artist, it becomes extremely difficult to remove yourself from the work and observe the material from afar, or easy way to discern if there’s an element or two too much in the material or cloudin’ up the mix.  “Ephemeral” works pretty well overall…I felt like the space it has at the very beginning in the first forty-five seconds or so was excellent; I loved the violin sounds that come soaring into the song right afterwards…and I was probably a bit indifferent towards the beat; sometimes that worked for me, sometimes I wondered what this song might be like without its intensity.  And then I laugh out loud…because I shouldn’t be complaining about a damn thing at all really – Glenn makes incredible music, “Ephemeral” is every bit as much proof as so many of his song are of that fact – and just because I like some more than other doesn’t make any song any less amazing than it is, you feel me?  “Ephemeral” is perhaps a bit looser in the overall structure & design…a bit more demanding for the everyday set of ears to follow on its adventurous path from point-A to point-B – but other than that, the sonic depth & high quality standards of Murawski are as intact as they always are.

“Winter’s Edge” finished the album with bone-chilling familiarity and the comfort of a soul that feels like it’s always been a part of my very soul.  I suspect that’s partly induced by having known this one prior, but largely comes from the fact that these are the crystalline kind of melancholy vibes that always find their way into my playlists – I love a combination of darkness & light like you’ll discover in this final cut.  The first time it came on in listening to this record though, it was honestly like being caught somewhere in public by a friend you used to see every damn day of your life…”Winter’s Edge” started and I was instantly like, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THIS TIME? and I AM SO HAPPY YOU’VE RETURNED.  And obviously, as I’ve already pointed out, it’s not because you’re gonna find the most sunshiny vibes or upbeat sound fueling the core of this cut – quite the opposite really; so take my happiness with a grain of salt, it comes from connecting to music that embraces the emotions it takes on, happy or sad.  You get a great mix of engaging sound and impressive instrumentation all the way throughout “Winter’s Edge” – and for a seven-plus minute-long song, you’ll dig how many changes you’ll find and how readily you’ll accept them along the way.  A solid example of a song that’s really got it all, “Winter’s Edge” delivers on a great finale to Cloud Remasters Volume 4 with a cut that can’t miss, and an idea so well executed, written, and performed, that it’ll send you diving right into the depths of his endless catalog.

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