After releasing the Dandelion EP and Glacier single over the past few years, Cloud Castle Lake have introduced themselves as one of the most exciting young bands around. Both releases are impressive, with tracks like ‘A Wolf Howling’ and ‘Sync’ exhibiting some real avant-garde potential, but their debut album Malingerer’s ambition, cohesion and moments of awe-inspiring greatness are at times truly staggering.
The cerebral art-rock of the Dublin-based four piece holds ties to bands like Radiohead and Sigur Ros – yet their style is distinctive due to the infusion of jazz, gospel and classical influences and throughout the album. Horns and brass instrumentation are dotted throughout Malingerer and are central to many tracks, electronic doodles wheel across ‘Bonfire’ and the title track, while Daniel McAuley’s vocals make many of the tracks truly biblical.
It is impossible to understate how much of a weapon McAuley’s voice is to these songs – with his earth-shattering falsetto’s soaring over songs which experiment with structure, time-signatures and a vast array of instrumentation. The patience and poise with which their music carries itself, often feeling formless and yet maintaining a sense of strictly organised chaos is something to admire.
The most traditional track is first single ‘Twins,’ which marches to a steady drum beat and contains some fantastic horn work, yet calling anything by Cloud Castle Lake conventional is absurd. Take the title track – a shapeless, piano-based epic that rises and falls across its 8-minute runtime, frequently unraveling into sparse vocals and piano and then coalescing into cinematic peaks, with electronics constantly fluttering in and out. It’s enormous, ridiculous and astounding, and it’s not even the best track here.
Moments of spine-tingling magic arrive out of nowhere across the whole of Malingerer. The tribal sounding drums that enter around the 3:30 mark in ‘Genuflect,’ the insane vocal explosion at the end of choral finisher ‘Koi Pond,’ and the gorgeous instrumental embellishments that slowly unfurl across the post-rock symphony ‘Two Birds,’
While you are likely to feel exhausted after such an intense album, and while, as with the track ‘Fern,’ their distinctive style occasionally treads a little too near self-parody, these are insignificant issues for an album that takes a million risks and pulls almost all of them off.