Cloud Boat - Model Of You | Album Review | By Volume

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Cloud Boat

Model Of You

Model of You is both a fascinating listen and an interesting intermediate step in Cloud Boat’s slowly expanding oeuvre”.

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Author: on July 7, 2014
Apollo Records

For a band that started out by releasing all of two songs in its first couple of years in the business, British electronic pop duo Cloud Boat seem to be going through a bit of a purple patch at the moment. Having just made their full-length debut last year with the excellent Book of Hours, Cloud Boat – which consists of fellow north Londoners Tom Clarke and Sam Ricketts – are already releasing their sophomore effort, Model of You, only about fourteen months after their inaugural album. Ordinarily, the speed at which the pair has taken to pumping out LPs would be reasonable grounds for concern, but thankfully, Model of You is both a fascinating listen and an interesting intermediate step in Cloud Boat’s slowly expanding oeuvre.

However, it is probably safe to say that those who enjoyed 2013’s Book of Hours will find Model of You to be an altogether different preposition. With the help of English producer Andy Savours (who has worked with My Bloody Valentine, The Horrors, and The Killers, among others), Cloud Boat have aimed to create a body of work that is both lusher and dreamier than their debut record. Don’t get me wrong: the primitive electronic trappings that defined the outer edges of Book of Hours still remain within earshot, but this time around it is clear that the London outfit intend for Clarke’s ethereal vocals to function as the primary interface between themselves and their listeners. As a result, several songs on Model of You can be seen to operate entirely off the back of Clarke’s voice, which is itself best described as a fascinating cross between the measured detachment of Overgrown-era James Blake and the otherworldly bombast of Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan.

But while Clarke’s vocal chords remain the main playmaker in this set-up, there are enough of Ricketts’ hypnotic guitar lines and stratospheric digital textures to keep anyone who enjoyed Book of Hours considerably engaged throughout. “Portraits of Eyes”, for instance, oscillates so effectively around the gaps left behind by the multi-instrumentalist’s pealing guitar riff and ominous-sounding synthesizers that it could easily be mistaken as a cut engineered by Delta Machine-era Depeche Mode. The subsumed sense of drama provided by Clarke’s performance also helps to provide a degree of momentum to proceedings: “The first page of my map is in colour / A scrapbook for all I am”, exhorts the vocalist despondently as his bandmate’s twinkly guitar play warps and bends all around him. Then there’s “Thoughts in Mine”, which kicks off with a deceptively simple melodic line that gradually morphs before our very eyes into a surprisingly danceable number. Lead single “Carmine” in turn features Clarke murmuring introspective observations above a series of aquaplaning synthesizers and the muted thump of a drum machine, with the entire concoction working well in its intended role as an ode to the fleeting nature of friendship and love.

But if there’s a tangle that Model of You struggles to get out of, it’s that the relative remoteness of Clarke’s vocals has a tendency of making Cloud Boat’s songs sound a bit too samey, especially past the record’s halfway mark. As a result, there’s little here that rings with the joy or innovation or is capable of inspiring genuine wonderment on the part of the listener. So while Model of You does make a fair case for itself, it unfortunately stops short of feeling essential in a year that has thus far been chock-full of excellent releases.

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