Cloud Control – Dream Cave

7.5/10

Blue Mountain natives Cloud Control, now based in London after winning the Australian Independent Music Award, took two long years out of the studio before returning this month with a brand-spanking-new album, supposedly recorded in Kentish caves. The foursome initially garnered a deluge of applause for their debut Bliss Release, with many noting dream-pop smog, jaunty psych-folk axes and the indie-pop hooks as impressive facets of their sound. Since that lauded first LP was released, they’ve supported a wealth of international and homegrown stars (including Foo Fighters and Weezer) across the planet; however, now they’re back after their globetrotting and opening-act escapades, delivering us a fresh array of noises in the form of Dream Cave.

Lead single ‘Dojo Rising’, for the most part, conjures a similar natural tone to the band’s premiere outing. There’s plenty of jangle-pop guitars and soft-rock percussion – there’s a vague similarity to Noah and the Whale – and while there are also synth strands, they’re used for harmonic effect rather than as a focal point. The chorus is dominated by an anthemic apathy: “Should have probably told you from the start/ but I’m lazy… and I don’t want anything,” and the heart-on-sleeve approach is a mite different from the more fantastical narratives of yesteryear. It’s a portent of the record’s overarching ‘theme’ – there’s no real continual thread lyrically, and the group themselves have described this as less of an album and more like “a collection of songs,” but there’s still a notable trend veering towards soul-bearing.

Stylistically, they ricochet between inspirations and genres – ‘Iceage Heatwave’ recalls a more psychedelic Fleetwood Mac, ‘Promises’ is a prog-rock paean with waltzing beats and chugging rawk riffs, and opener ‘Scream Rave’ dabbles in art-pop territory á la (not Gaga) alt-J with a Jagwar Ma bent. That’s not at all to say they’re derivative, more that they’ve got a scattershot plan of attack in terms of labelled styles or aural familiarity. ‘X’ is wild indie, where the quartet inject ’70s glammy pomp into the chorus and desert-rock half-time drums. ‘The Smoke, The Feeling’ is smothered in ’80s new wave vox and soaring, galloping synths. ‘Island Living’ is a broody, sinister goth-dance cut. It’s all so elegantly messy.

Essentially, the band have just whacked a bit of everything into Dream Cave – which doesn’t sound as bad as you’d have first thought. For starters, though their approach to tone and timbre may differ between tracks, each one has a specific, certain unnameable something that links them all together. Each one is unmistakably like the next, whilst also being utterly far-flung. Moreover, their random onslaught keeps the energy alive, and if you ever feel yourself dozing off, the next cut jerks you back into consciousness; as they say, variety is the spice of life.

On the whole, this is a wonderful album, and a suitable follow-up to Bliss Release. There are a few stumbles – ‘Moon Rabs’ is bloody ridiculous (“Moooooooooooooooon rabbit… you’re the one that’s crazy!”) – but they’re soon forgotten when highlights such as the title track (a gritty doo-wop dirge), the opener and ‘Island Living’ explode. It’s a step towards introspection the band have taken, though they’ve masked most of the intimate narratives with intriguing and/or wacky instrumentation, so perhaps they’re not entirely keen on peeling back the skin to show gooey innards just yet.