Australian Music Prize Nominees (number: 2010 winner)
en: Bliss Release [info]
Are other countries' equivalents of the Mercury Prize just as potentially poisonous as our version (what with the decline of Gomez, the difficult drama of Klaxons, and the recent fall from universal critical acclaim of Elbow)? If so, we probably ought to be terribly concerned for nearly-Sydney foursome Cloud Control. This record won Australia's version, which hasn't exactly led to international recognition for predecessors such as... any of them, really.
But there are plenty of reasons why this lot could buck the trend. First and foremost, they're an absolute delight vocally, with the cavernously adventuring holler of Alister Wright marrying with the gentle strength of Heidi Lenffer to a degree that suggests the often-tough-to-live-up-to pairing of Alan and Mimi in Low (but in slightly more of a hurry, obviously). There's also a curious sense of space to the bulk of Bliss Release; it may seem somewhat absurd to suggest that growing up in a mountainous area has imprinted heavily on their work, but there are repeated passages of campfire hauntings, dusky repetition and expeditionary motion that imbue it with almost-otherworldly implications.
Beyond these consistent threads, however, lies a tremendous surfeit of ideas. It's as if, having agreed on fundamental themes, the band decided there ought to be room for everything they've ever enjoyed. The results certainly come across as the work of individuals with impressive record collections who, best of all, have understood the appeal of them. Anyone who's witnessed opener Meditation Song #2 (Why, Oh Why) live, for instance, will be aware of the terrific sing-along capacity of its oddly bullroarer-like sections, and the fact that it lurches uninterruptedly into The Last Broadcast-era Dovesisms of There's Nothing in the Water We Can't Fight is both impelling and intriguing. Elsewhere, This Is What I Said is The Flaming Lips' Yeah Yeah Yeah Song filtered through the excitable ears of The Drums - which is how you might've expected Hollow Drums to sound, but no: that's actually thrillingly sparse, country-speckled picture-box acoustica.
And if that wasn't adorable enough, they've struck a vein of sonic precious metal on the album's centrepiece, Gold Canary. Sidling in on an array of claps, whoops and archaic chanting, it sets its stall as wide as the most wandering of Americana before a sudden bass breakdown leads it into an abundance of Mellotrons and jangles. Essentially, this is some of the most consistent songwriting to come from Australia since the loss of The Go-Betweens, and some of the most arcane performing available anywhere outside of Arcade Fire. The prospects of Cloud Control storming the charts, then, would actually seem thunderously fine.