ESHKA – Dream Cloud


I’m not sure when exactly we gave up on the word ‘supergroup.’ For a while in the late 2000s, it seemed that every band contained bits and pieces from about three others. Velvet Revolver were a remix of Guns ‘N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots dropouts. Audioslave were Rage Against the Machine but with considerably less rage. Uncharitably, you could put this down to ageing mega-ego rock stars calling in all their favours for one last big payday (at least until the inevitable reunion tour), but most of these bands swiftly vanished and seemed to take the name ‘supergroup’ with them. The idea of the supergroup lives on, however. Kanye West and Kid Cudi made one of the best albums of 2018 under the name Kids See Ghosts, but nobody calls them a supergroup except their Wikipedia page.

ESHKA is a two-piece outfit comprising two of the Midland’s brightest young supernovae – Jess Webberley of Graywave and Richard Wilson of EGO DIVE. It might be a reach to call them a ‘supergroup,’ but ESHKA stays true to the spirit of the word – on Dream Cloud, the two artists achieve a synthesis that is considerably more than the sum of their parts.

Dream Cloud initially lands closer to Graywave’s signature sound than it does to EGO DIVE’s. The track’s wandering bassline and phase-shifted guitars could have found a comfortable home on the former’s recent Planetary Shift EP, and the overall woozy aesthetic will be one familiar to fans of Webberley’s recent releases. The delightfully throttled guitars that pepper the verses feel more akin to EGO DIVE’s brand of ugly/beautiful shoegaze, however, and his dramatic instincts seem to shape the track’s second half with strident vocal melodies and effortless arpeggios.

Webberley and Wilson split vocal duties almost evenly, but it’s no surprise that the two started collaborating on ESHKA during lockdown, with song ideas exchanged online and pieced together through email threads and shared garageband files. There’s a real sense of distance between the two artists’ voices on Dream Cloud, which only adds to its unbalanced, almost uncanny vibe – for the most part, the two voices are even kept in separate audio channels. All art is the product of the material conditions that created it, and Dream Cloud clearly shows signs of having been born in lockdown – the artistic equivalent of an animal bred in captivity. Thankfully, both Webberley and Wilson seem to recognise this, and the two go unrepentantly – together, but at a distance – into swirling, foggy shoegaze noise.

It is telling that Dream Cloud ends with a tape-stop – a distinctive mechanical gurgling that pulls the voice and instrumentation together into a supercompressed vanishing point. It’s a sound that clearly indicates something cut off before its time, something with more to offer beyond the three and a half minutes allowed to us. We can only hope that ESHKA restart the machines soon.

Dream Cloud is released July 23rd.

Christopher R. Moore