Book of Hours
This brand new, debut CD, Book of Hours by Cloud Boat, a London-based duo made up of Sam Ricketts and Tom Clarke is another on the list of greats of 2013. This fantasy musical voyage takes one on a surreal journey to the outer limits of the mind and space. Their music often brings about comparisons with fellow musician, Englishman and childhood friend of Ricketts and Clarke, James Blake, who, at only 25 has the aural stamina of one years older. The dreamy textures and ethereal gusts of wind that Cloud Boat concoct are so unique and so needed in this age of “Emo” and other derivative pop bands. It’s one thing to be derivative if you have something new to add or build on, but to play music like so-and-so or whatsizname is kind of a non-starter. Now, others may disagree and say Cloud Boat are derivative, that sort of ambient dreamscape sound has been done by Eno and the like, still, whether it’s their own new interpretation of this or not, Cloud Boat (as well as James Blake) are faraway from their peers in the, at least, American indie scene; their sound is definitely quite English in their approach: they aren’t interested in jingle-jangle pop or loud, raucous guitar hooks and drum kicks, which does sort of make a separate path for them.
I want to take a moment, though, and deconstruct some of the myths that surround this whole idea of original/derivative in music – especially today’s new music. All the sacred bands/artists that date back to the 60s (Velvet Underground, King Crimson, Can, Brian Eno, Faust and more) are cited by many bands that have come and gone in the past 30 years. But as great as those bands are, you can dig a bit deeper and find out that those guys too had influences, they didn’t just appear out of thin air or come down the mountain with this brave new sound. One t hing that bands like the Velvets and Eno and Robert Fripp, Can, et al, have taught us was that it’s the way you take your influences and instead of imitating them, you use the attitudes exuded and the textures and atmospherics induced and take those as starting points, but it takes vision and talent to put it to pleasurable listening experiences.
One of Book of Hours’ strengths is its quality of sound; its brilliance. For a debut album, Book of Hours showcases a rich tapestry of fantastic journeys and I’m hoping that this is just the beginning in a line of cinematica to come from these two craftsmen. The disc starts out with a strong tune – “Lions on the Beach” a beat-heavy wave of pulsing electricity. Further in, the album gets more quiet, as the slow gondola pushes away from the mainland of reality, but nonetheless resonates with a very atmospheric sort of balm to it. They’re a sort of psychological band in that they have this inherent somatic voice to their music. You somehow integrate this Jungian sensibility into your mind through listening. Very sensual, very avant-garde in the truest sense of the term. Cloud Boat’s stuff hits you on different levels: you get this hypnagogic input into your id that is apt to work its way into your imagination and your very dream work-ups; it also works consciously, as a salve for damaged synapses, a glue to put broken, shattered nerves back together again or to smooth out frayed nerves.
Their very name – Cloud Boat – is an apt one, the soundscapes on Book of Hours is indeed a conveyance to ethereal pleasure pillows, hovering about like some magic carpet.
Song number four is a really haunting and spare tune: “Drean”, only two and a half minutes, it’s a fantasy, daydream meditation. Then, right after comes the very dry “Amber Road” – even more haunting in its nightmarish soundscape with all the markings of coming off as incidental music from a great underground film; the end comes with about 15 seconds of an acoustic guitar, making a sort of coda to an otherwise otherworldly rapture. “You Find Me” is another strange, but beautiful number. With a sparse undercurrent of music, the singing is a modulated vocal, a deep, warped but melancholy meandering that eventually burns out after just under two minutes.
I could go on and analyze every song on here, but then that is what you’re supposed to do – buy the album and find out for yourself the magic on here. Incantations to raze demons and incite inchoate dreams. The album is a lovely, fantastic waking, lucid dreamwork that recalls ambient greats like Brian Eno and his ilk. It’s a veritable Music for Films with vocal parts.
Speaking of dreams and nightmares, Book of Sounds does start out with a bang, sort of, the aforementioned “Lions on the Beach” which then sinks into the ambient-vocal sounds that the following tunes embrace. This method recalls the act of getting into bed, hitting the pillow and waiting for sleep to wash over oneself. Once it does, however, that’s where the balance of the album goes: into a hypnopaedic sort of spellbound aura. Its songs maneuver in and around the various, many times nonsensical dreams and dream-flashes that one has every night under R.E.M.-sleep. At the end of the album, however, it’s just like a person sleeping who’s getting closer and closer to dawn and so starts to slowly come out of the deep sleep up to a more easily awakened realm, further up, up, up until awake. The last tune on Book of Clouds, “Kowloon Bridge” is a soft, bare-bones reverie that mimics that period of the end of the night. And when its over – time to awaken. –KM.