Cloud Control: Dream Cave

The Australian indie-poppers attain a more rarified air on their second album.

Cloud Control

Dream Cave

Label: Votiv
Australia Release Date: 2013-08-09
US Release Date: 2013-09-17
UK Release Date: 2013-09-16

Not every album that seems like it would reward repeated listening actually does. Some albums that seem inscrutable on first listen remain inscrutable on 11th listen. Whether they are overwrought or under-realized, some albums are, in the end, just not worth the effort. Which makes it even more special when you find one that is.

Dream Cave, the second album from the Australian quartet Cloud Control, is a bit sly. After some atmospheric chanting, it opens with "Dojo Rising". The song is an instant classic slacker anthem. Trudging along with nowhere in particular to go, it is nonetheless captivating, moving, impossible to ignore. A steady midtempo beat holds things down for a whooshing, "flying cymbals" sound and well-placed electronic syn-drums. "I can beat myself down," assures singer Alister Wright, "you don't have to bother." The chorus, with its simple, descending keyboard tone, is like watching a car fall off a cliff in slow motion. Beautiful, crushing slow motion. "Give it to me easy / Give it to me hard," Wright says, admitting he is simply after an easy good time. Wright doesn't seem too concerned about the upshot. "Then I gotta break your heart / Prob'ly should've told you from the start / But I'm lazy / And I don't want anything."

"Dojo Rising" is not satisfied with the wink-wink ennui of low expectations. Rather, at heart it's a song about the sadness of thinking your low expectations are cool when they're not. The song is so easy to listen to, hum, and love, that it belies the complexity of the rest of Dream Cave. It's a strong candidate for song of the year. Nothing else on the album sounds much like "Dojo Rising" at all, and at first that's a bit of a disappointment. But after a few more listens you realize that with this album Cloud Control have entered that exclusive fraternity of bands who can combine the harrowing and the enthralling, the melodic and the dissonant, the ugly and the beautiful, without a hint of seams between the disparate forces. At different times, Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Lindsey Buckingham, Radiohead, Animal Collective, and others have achieved this alchemy. Like the best work from those artists, Dream Cave is one of those albums that unfolds like origami, each song revealing itself as its own unique world within an overarching, carefully-crafted universe.

The first Cloud Control album, Bliss Release, relied a bit too much on the eccentric yet melodic Robert Forster-penned songs from fellow Australians and cult favorites the Go-Betweens. Dream Cave is far less self-conscious than its predecessor. "Promises" is bold, grimy new wave, with a barking Wright sounding like an entirely different vocalist than he does on "Dojo Rising". "Moon Rabbit" has a flower power show tune vibe to it, with Wright and keyboardist Heidi Lenffer engaging in some nice true harmonies. Lenffer takes the lead on the swirling, magnificent "The Smoke, The Feeling", the one Dream Cave track that truly matches up with the "dream pop" label the band are often given.

The more immediately harrowing stuff comes in the form of the downcast Euro-disco of "Island Living" and the bad-trip drone of "Tombstone". Yet even these tracks reveal their own moments of beauty. And, while the almost-defiant "Scar" shows the band can do radio-friendly indie pop with the best of them, the song, like much of the album, struggles with self-examination that borders on self-loathing.

By the time it all fades into the lingering sound of water dripping off stalactites at the end of the tender, almost doo-wop title track, Dream Cave has taken you on a ride with far more jolts and twists than "Dojo Rising" might have suggested. The brilliance of it is it's a ride you can't wait to invest the effort in again.







Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.