As soon as you press play on Cloud Control‘s Bliss Release, it is easy to place them in the current music scene. The feel good psychedelic pop/rock quartet hail from the Blue Mountains (near Sydney) and confidently join the ranks of young talent coming out of Australia at the moment. Their music shares elements from native predecessor Wolfmother, as well as contemporaries such as Tame Impala. Their affable hippie vibes are comparable (but not nearly as remarkable) to Fleet Foxes, a group who seems to have paved the way for indie-folk bands to gain artistic credibility.
Bliss Release is the group’s debut full-length album, following two EP’s that have garnered attention and a handful of accolades within the Australian music culture. At the heart of Cloud Control is the male/female duality of their harmonies. Alister Wright and Heidi Lennfer soar through bold melodies together, their lyrics abundant with rich imagery which conjure the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water. Cloud Control revel in the ideas within nature; the timelessness of land, the reverence toward Mother Earth.
The opening song “Meditation Song #2 (Why, Oh Why)” begins with a simple, folky guitar rhythm, strummed relaxingly behind the vocal harmonies. The song slowly climaxes, the voices playing and dancing together, as the line “Make my head a pool of water now” is repeated like a meditative mantra. Hands clap in rhythm and a jangly tambourine enters the scene, creating an all-for-one jam circle. A few of the songs on Bliss Release, including “Ghost Story” and “This is What I Said” share the same quality – as if the commanding crescendo of their music gets inside of you, making you want to pick up a tambourine and join the celebration.
Cloud Control’s use of psychedelic, hypnotic repetition is at it’s most effective in “There’s Nothing in the Water We Can’t Fight.” Wright’s vocals take the spotlight, his voice honest and fearless, giving Bliss Release unbridled sincerity. Despite their many moments of soft folk, Cloud Control often break into colourful movements of neo-psychedelic distorted guitar, reminiscent of Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale (Who, in turn, was heavily influenced by Jimmy Page).
“Gold Canary” is the pinnacle of Bliss Release. It’s hummable melody is endlessly infectious as Wright and Lennfer harmonize beautifully: “I won’t hurt your mother/I won’t hurt your brother/I find other ways to know it’s alright.” “Gold Canary” is a ceremonial pastorale, with hypnotic African chanting running throughout.
The second half of the album is weaker than the first. It is more subdued and feels as if Cloud Control has already made their point, repeating their aforementioned creative tactics. “Just For Now” gives a Simon and Garfunkel feel. It is apparent in “The Rolling Stones” they are singing about the kind that gathers no moss, with lyrics such as “Livin’ like a lover/Is easy my brother”.
There is a certain mysticism that fills Bliss Release. The soaring, inventive melodies feel as if they should be sung from the top of a mountain. Yet it becomes a little contrived, as if it does not quite live up to the authenticity it tries to achieve. The greatest albums often have a common root in which its songs are an expression of that root. Although Bliss Release displays a unique sound, it often strays too far into different musical territories; its finger in too many formulaic pies. Just because you’ve listened to Sgt. Pepper’s a thousand times, does not mean you understand how to create a perfect psychedelic/rock album. The reason Sgt. Pepper’s is such an important album is because it teems with authenticity, and despite unmatched enthusiasm, Bliss Release isn’t convincing enough to seem real.