(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, August 22, 2011

CD review - Cloud Control, Bliss Release (2010/2011)

Rich retro harmonies fill out psychedelic folk sound

Australia's Cloud Control have built a big reputation back home and started making waves in Europe. Now their debut, Bliss Release, is due for release here in the US.

Cloud Control cover some of the same terrain as other indie folkish artists like Fleet Foxes or Arcade Fire: guitar jangle, a mix of acoustic and electric instruments, and a retro haze permeating their music. Cloud Control stakes their own claim by leaning more towards a psych folk vibe and building rich harmony arrangements. These harmonies are where the band truly shines.

The opening track, Meditation Song #2 (Why, Oh Why) is the perfect representative for the band's sound. The simple folky start with sweet harmonies sounds like the Mamas and the Papas. The easy acoustic sway is pretty, but then a low level guitar distortion adds a fill of notes. A moment later, that distortion moves in with acid rock intensity and drives the rest of the song. The psychedelic feel reorients the harmonies to classic psych folkers, The Association.

But the full musical sound never buries the harmonies. The male and female vocals meld, then exchange lines. The voices maintain a kind of sunshine openness that contrasts with the intensity of the music.

On the other hand, songs like Death Cloud prove that Cloud Control can play solid indie rock, too. The driving beat and staccato bassline are more modern. But once again, the harmonies add complexity and depth to the song. Despite the threatening title and lyrics, the sound is open and joyous.

Cloud Control breaks up the love-fest with songs like Ghost Story or My Fear #1. The moody chanting and repetitive drone on Ghost Story build a delightful tension, even as the chorus offers a quirky diversion:
We are the sole protectors
We are the soul collectors
We follow solar vectors
The music is full of rhythmic details. Despite these darker moments, Bliss Release is ultimately an affirming listen. The retro sunshine resonance lingers like a sip of Barenjager honey liqueur.

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