Photo: Kate Lockhart

Clidesfeld is a hurricane – chaos on the ground, but seen from above there's a clear sense of shape and direction. Formed in 2004 by Minneapolis-based Brandon Patrick Sullivan, Clidesfeld is a musical fissure that reopens only after its host has reached peak emotional deluge. And when the structures collapse, out come escapist melodies awash in tension, intention, and momentum.

Sullivan is a man of big feelings and a lot of energy. From an early age, this tornadic expression needed a constructive direction lest it sweep everything up in its path. His search for ways to funnel his experience led to a blend of approaches. Over 18 releases, Clidesfeld has casually ignored any expectation of a consistent sonic palette, moving from meticulously structured and layered distorted harmonies to improvised synthesizer soundscapes – and well beyond. In its manic bursts of creation, one year might see a full-length release with growling vocals atop overdriven guitars and thunderous rhythms quickly followed by a collection of plucky sawtooth instrumentals or crooning and pensive acoustic ballads.

By letting his wandering mind latch onto divergent sources of inspiration, Sullivan has let Clidesfeld’s only consistencies be openness and storytelling. He has penned vulnerable and candid stories of his life navigating suicides, estrangements, cycles of dysfunction, and self-repair. Clidesfeld often combines alternative rock, heavy metal, indie rock, post-punk, and electronica to galvanize Sullivan’s points on multiple levels through irony, perspective, and allegory.

Clidesfeld has had a do-it-yourself mentality from the start. Sullivan started recording noisy tracks as a teenager in the bedroom of a double-wide trailer sandwiched between a sugar factory and a pickle factory. Working with buggy digital multitrackers, he recorded every part of a song isolated from the other parts—the vocals on his first few albums were tracked a capella—and mixed songs using discarded computers he'd fixed up himself. He studied design and photography to make gig posters and album artwork for Clidesfeld. He took up web development so that he could self-publish the material. Almost 20 years later, things haven't changed much: Sullivan still writes and records everything in his living room and creates all of Clidesfeld's artwork himself with construction paper cutouts and whatever he can scrounge up in makeshift basement photo studios.

While the vast majority of Clidesfeld's recorded material has been a solo pursuit, Sullivan assembles a band to perform his songs live. Over the years, these accompaniments have varied from one-off experiments to deeper partnerships. Currently, Clidesfeld's gigging outfit features bassist Andrew Yost and drummer Jaime Rossow alongside Sullivan.

Clidesfeld's 18th release, "You Can Help It,” was born following a period of experimental instrumental releases and drumming for theatrical electronic rock duo The Decayed Realms. “I thought I was done with that kind of writing,” recalls Sullivan. “The capacity and focus behind the music in ‘Dotted Legs’ and ‘Fall’ was something that felt long gone. Like it’d gone extinct.” But upon completion of 2021's “That's Not How I Remember It”—a collection reimagining previously-released songs—Sullivan unearthed a renewed compulsion toward intentionality in composition. From the ensuing cultivation arrived 2023’s dynamic and unflinching heavy alt rock reflection “You Can Help It,” an album that wields the past as a looking glass, dark with futures that feel inevitable even as we hope to avoid them. And if we are careful to listen, we might find the wisdom and the discipline to change course for the better. Building on the diverse catalog that Clidesfeld has amassed over the years, "You Can Help It" shows that Sullivan still has many stories to tell.