Cloud Control deliver a psychically confused record on Zone. It’s their third album, and by this point artists typically have a sense of identity if they are to develop one; Cloud Control, in turns both fortunately and unfortunately, still seem to be a collection of influences rather than a distinct article.
Take, for example, “Panopticon.” It is a tuneful and serviceable song, but the combination of simple loop-based hip-hop inspired drums, lofi buzzy synths and fade in/fade out production tricks sounds a bit too keenly like Tame Impala for comfort. “Mum’s Spaghetti” likewise reads like a featureless summation of any of the current crop of indie rock radio bands, replete with an obvious and necessary nod to Eminem to establish a connection to hip-hop.
In other places, the stylistic name-that-tune-ism of the record turns out a bit better. The closer, “Find Me In The Water,” plays like an ’80s Peter Gabriel art-pop tune, even nailing little details like the percussion, the way steady and firm clearly produced piano rings out against more experimental electronic flourishes, and the spiritual plaintive vocal. In fact, the best track on the album, “Lights on the Chrome,” is a seamless combination of Smiths/U2-style gauzy guitars and yearning vocals and the rounded, springy bass tone of post-punk.
Cloud Control seems on average to be at their best when they dial down the Tame Impala-style hip-hop influences and dial up the guitars. It’s not, of course, a judgment of their influences but what Cloud Control does with them; the songs seem to only occasionally include the necessary elaboration to give them a sense of presence and identity, relying mostly on tried-and-true songwriting tweaks to recurring verses that don’t typically add up to much in the way of discrete value. But then, on tracks like “Goldfish” and the excellent “Summer Rave,” they give their guitarist a bit more space and he delivers both a tone and a melodic sensibility that otherwise is lacking across the record.
Cloud Control shows a firm grasp of song structures that don’t allow the tune to tire out before they cut the tape and enough production acumen to give each section its own identifiable trait; what is lacking is only some final X factor, some ingredient which feels undeniably theirs and no one else’s. Without it, they have delivered a handful of good songs worth of a playlist or mix, but not a lot to return to as an album.