[sic] Magazine

Cloud Boat – Book Of Hours

Sad-brand post-dubstep, aka blubstep, figurehead James Blake has his moments, but – to these ears – suffers a little when it comes to quality control. No such problems for his childhood friends Sam Ricketts and Tom Clarke , because their Book Of Hours is a real high-water mark for the miasmic and diverse genre.

Book Of Hours is also a very subtle collection where a finely worked balance between quite varied influence and super minimal delivery exists. For example, “Youthern” – which at another point in history may have been dubbed folktronica – opens with a fireside a cappella harmony before skeletal percussion and a sub-60 bpm crunch roll in. Already plenty to handle, Ricketts and Clarke then get free and easy with slo-mo vocal effects and a kinda classical post-rock shimmer. In “Wanderlust”, the pair play off Clarke’s hymnal cooing against a crystalline beat and those ultra-reverbed guitar echoes as used by Forest Swords – these same textures reappearing to hang suspension-like in “Pink Grin II”, which in turn builds to a snare-driven step and haunting crescendo.

Where Book Of Hours really comes into its own though is when its sense of absence is allowed to dominate. The infinitely fragile tear-jerker “Dréan”, for example, combines Clarke’s barely there falsetto, which brings the spectral soul of How To Dress Well to mind, with a line of tender attic-core acoustics. Little more than a heavily distorted vocal, “You Find Me” floats on by extension in oceans of atmospheric space.

Of course Ricketts and Clarke are not the only ones in this market at the moment. Their deconstructed R&B jam “Bastion” could have featured on, say, the recent Majical Cloudz LP with few spotting anything was awry. The duo know their history too as album opener “Lions On The Beach” leans on the sort of glitchy step that Radiohead and Fourtet popularised over a decade ago, a whole album of which would have been derivative, but beset here with typewriter strokes and ticking clocks it becomes just one more compositional string to the Cloud Boat bow. So too the eerie “Amber Road”, which fights with dissonant Tesla coil surges, coming away bloodied but victorious – a rare moment of violence in one of 2013’s most blissful albums to date.

Advised downloads: “Youthern” and “Pink Grin II”

~Book Of Hours is released June 3rd 2013 on Apollo .~