Last year’s debut album ‘Kinds of Sadness’ by Brisbane solo artist Cloud Tangle was a sign of something special brewing in the home studios of Amber Ramsay – it was one of our favourite Australian/New Zealand releases for 2020 and indicative of a prodigious talent.
Cloud Tangle is back with the album ‘Swells’ – another stunning dreamy ambient masterpiece that immerses the listener in a soft layered and nuanced world of electronica. ‘Swells’ confirms Ramsay’s place in the firmament. There is clearly detectable growth from her debut – a far more complex and nuanced palette upon which Ramsay paints the most sparkling of aural landscapes.
The title instrumental track encapsulates the overall feeling evinced by the album – gentle undulations of sounds that emerge and dissipate in a liquid form. Just imagine crystal clear waters surging and receding as sparkling sunlight filters through from the bright blue skies above in illuminating rays. There is an ethereal beauty in Ramsays’ music – inherently introspective.
Single ‘Sinking Feeling’ drips with razor-sharp piano that prowls over a gurgling stream of synths before ominously stabbing and increasing in intensity. The vocal take a while to emerge – glorious mesmerising melodies that are layered and distant, languid, sensuous and circular with the Arctic chill that typifies Ramsay’s delivery.
‘Stare’ has a glitchy, stop/start entrance stitched together by Ramsay’s gliding transfixing vocals and a battering precision. The lyrical themes that seems to tie the album together seem to personal themes about control, relationships and isloation.
The ambient atmosphere – mysterious and alien, continues in ‘Empty Company’: Ramsay sounds like a celestial being gazing upon the Earth: observing, cold and distant and yet creating antithetically a warm embrace through the bubbling synths and clattering drums. Like the other tracks, there is a statuesque and measured pace – sombre at times but ultimately hypnotic and enchanting.
Instrumental ‘Mechanism’ introduces a languid late-night wind instrument breath easing through the arpeggiated synth backdrop: a sense of red velvet delicacy and opulence.
‘Confined’ – another instrumental – illustrates Cloud Tangle’s deeper dive into sonics and aural architecture in the album. It is a sign of growth and development – a far greater complexity and sense of adventure. This thread continues into ‘Repetition’: more a collection of intense feelings translated into sound than a song. Again, alien, mysterious and hypnotic with a distant percussion like a heartbeat. Ramsay’s voice drips with a profound melancholia and a sense of loss and regret.
Penultimate track, ‘Gabriel’s Dream’ shines a bright light on Ramsay’s gorgeous vocals – straight from the school of one of my favourite singers Dusty Springfield – ringing like a bell with clarity and emotion. This is a glorious exposition of melody and emotion – sparse instrumentation where the spaces inbetween serve the song and augment the vocals.
‘Swells’ ends with ‘Feedback’ – a measured and enigmatic instrumental farewell with a delicate interplay between strings and keys.