As their name would suggest, Cloud Boat offer up a dreamy style of pop that has been labelled post dubstep or, by themselves, “downcast dubstep and melancholy folk that lies somewhere between Burial and Hood”; a considerable switch of direction then, from when the North London duo first took to the stage, when both chose to ‘learn their trade’ in metal bands.
Tom Clarke and Sam Ricketts have already released one album, last year’s Book Of Hours; Wanderlust and the exquisite Lions On The Beach were arguably the collection’s finest moments, but both tracks were heavily placed in the ambient, experimental electronic genre. The best tracks from follow-up Model Of You, however, start to move away from the experimental and common song structures begin to appear through the cloudy haze.
Model Of You is apparently “richer, heavier and more adventurous” than Book Of Hours, and with Andy Savours (The Horrors, My Bloody Valentine) on production duties that’s surely to be expected. Lead single Carmine is a slow, meandering effort – dreamy of course, almost faceless in fact, but it’s a beautiful shimmering soundscape that relies heavily on swirling, captivating synths and softly sung vocals; it’s just unlikely to grab you by the balls and drag you in, so is perhaps a surprising choice for a lead single.
Prelude, the album opener, is a mainly instrumental intro that recalls the intricate guitaring of Foals in a Twilight Zone capacity, the rapid militaristic drumming, atmospheric synths and floaty vocals create an intriguing concoction but it’s all over in under two minutes. And there are two other sub two minute tracks dotted around the album: Golden Lights is gentle sparse minimalism with delicate guitars and subtle synth chords whilst Told You is sparseness with piano and echoey vocals that isn’t really long enough to form into anything other than an interlude.
Hideaway is the first glimpse of a more recognisable structured song and is an early highlight. A gentle electro upbeat tempo marries with a constant tinkly riff and more militaristic percussion and prominent, atmospheric chord changes; the swirling layers create a beautiful sheen that would enhance many a film soundtrack. Portraits Of Eyes features a dubstep beat with minimal accompaniment, a stop start effort that eventually builds into something enthralling as guitar and synths again play their part in its unusual structure.
Bricks Are For is even more minimal, like a delicate flower being teased open on a lukewarm morning; it’s the one track where the band name seems so appropriate. The Glow returns to a more rapid, upbeat tempo, a fragmented ticking electronic beat driving the track on as lyrics of “madness runs in circles” intrigue; the eerily atmospheric musicianship is sublime, running alongside one of the album’s greatest melodies and harmonious vocals. Aurelia continues the pace for a thrilling highlight as a more conventional song structure appears once again, with strong bass synth and guitaring combining superbly.
Thoughts In Mine ticks along to another upbeat tempo, with a constant descending synth line appearing like falling raindrops throughout but the stop/start nature sounds a little messy in places with maybe a little too much going on, whilst All Of My Years is a dull plod that induces sleep, an uneventful effort that only picks up for a shimmering guitar passage. Hallow returns to a dubstep electro beat as The Invisible are recalled, its twanging guitar line creating a gorgeous texture and this time the stop/start formula works far better as the track weaves this way and that before tribal drumming, superb guitar touches and swirling keyboards seal its majesty, although at seven minutes it’s perhaps a shade too long.
Occasionally brilliant, if a little overbearing at times, Model Of You shows that Cloud Boat are evolving into something unique and thrilling. Whilst it doesn’t always work, and the shorter tracks do little to add value, the atmosphere they generate is often spine tingling. Roll on album number three.