Cloud Becomes Your Hand, ‘Rocks or Cakes’

Posted by on June 6, 2014


Northern Spy/Feeding Tube Records, 2/25/2014

Energy pumps through Cloud Becomes Your Hand‘s Northern Spy/Feeding Tube début, Rocks or Cakes. The album features a range of blissful synthetic sounds, boundless percussion, and violin, but the consistently upbeat energy of the songs outpaces any specific sound or part. As a quintet, Cloud Becomes Your Hand have enough ammunition to pair percussion against their synthesizers, or hold the drums hostage with effected electronics, though everything might drop out just in time for a rowdy violin riff that carries the song. With two players devoted to percussion, two others to electronics, guitar, etc., and a lone violin player, the quintet play like improvisational madmen in some spots and more composed rock artists at others. Regardless of the forms their songs take, the timbre on Rocks and Cakes is consistently upbeat and bright.

After an angular opening track, Cloud Becomes Your Hand settle into their rock songwriting early in their album. On the laid back “Sand of the Sea,” soft acoustic guitar swirls behind loose samples and synthetic couples, tethering each element of the song to this honest backdrop. Here, the quintet establish their “box,” for the album, which allows them to reach as far as possible with some of their free compositions. Not until “Nuclei Spinoffs” does the group return fully to the box, this time offsetting earnest group folk with spooky synth-orchestras swooping over.

The poles of these compositions leap from subdued key exercises to raw ensemble flare-ups. At each of these poles, the band blends acoustic and electric sounds that add a dimension to songs that may feel like bony hardcore or ensemble experimental music. With these acoustic and electric elements, Cloud Becomes Your Hand are able to convey their energy with textures as much as their rhythms. Since their rhythms expand and contract through basic rock structures and free flourishes, these textures present a surprising range of instrumentation.

“Theme from Baby Age” and “Bees Going Postal” showcase the violin as lead, in the former as a lead-riff earworm and an engaging cycle on the latter. Even if the band produces experimental excursions, some of this album’s simplest pop elements are also among its most memorable. These little nuggets will drive you mad throughout the album, for the group may not return to such catchy riffs later on. As a result, the quintet plays all out on their pop songs, which produces a surprisingly intense sound, given the album’s bright instrumental notes. Given that parts of the album were recorded separately, the feeling of interaction and energy throughout the album is impressive.

When the synthetic elements take over, Rocks or Cakes moves into repetitive meditations. “Waste Park” and “Glimpse of Hot Glove” exemplify these repetitions, albeit from different directions. A distorted electronic wave struggles to take over “Waste Park,” while “Glimpse of Hot Glove” finds the group diving into organ-driven motorik. From the earlier rock boxes on the album, as well as the angular, hardcore feeling from the live, driving “Felt Beetle,” Rocks and Cakes serves as an effective transition from traditional song to experimental sounds. The catchy effects and infectious tones make this a punk’s perfect gateway drug to more expansive genres.

Beyond the range of synthetic tones, the interaction between acoustic and electric elements, or the ensemble compositions, Rocks or Cakes delivers an energy or attitude to its listener. This makes it difficult to approach the album from one specific vantage point, but it is easy to embrace the sonic range once caught up into the general wave that surges through these songs. While Cloud Becomes Your Hand establish an ambitious set by giving themselves a wide open template of sounds to follow from here out, it is their energy, dynamic, and textures that seem most compelling.