Improvisational ambient duo Book of Clouds take us to an ethereal plain of contemplation usually inaccessible to mere humans in their new LP Livre De Nuages Vol 1, and it’s got critics and noise buffs from one side of the Atlantic to the next abuzz at the moment (and for good reason). Inside of six sprawling tracks, Ian C. Bouras and Federico Balducci dispense an erudite combination of atonal feedback, tube-amplified hum and crisp, textured melodies that ask as many questions from us as they answer. It’s one of the most engaging records I’ve heard in a long time, and it certainly deserves your attention this March.
The effects processing is just as much of an evocative linchpin in this album as the actual instrumentation is. In “Chapitre 3,” there’s a point where the psychedelic strumming of the guitar is dueling for our attention alongside a strand of harmonious feedback that seems lost in an endless, torturous abyss. The meld of beauty and brawn defines “Chapitre 2” and “Prélude,” but it’s only through their rich contrasting tones that we’re able to understand the depth of emotion that they’re trying to convey to us. This makes Livre De Nuages Vol 1 not only an exercise in compositional confliction, but further, an examination of what melody really means in the digital age.
“Chapitre 1” and “Chapitre 5” are all about brute forcefulness, while “Chapitre 4” and “Chapitre 3” are much more conservative and subtle, both in execution and arrangement. Each of these tracks was recorded live, without any filtration between the band and the audience, and to be quite frank, I’m jealous that I wasn’t present for any of the performances. There’s so much going on in this music, so many facets of noise bound together in a single force to be reckoned with, that as a lifelong avant-garde aficionado, I would have to be crazy to resist attending such a rousing engagement.
Despite the countless layers of formless sonic melancholy that are throttled at us from the moment that we start Livre De Nuages Vol 1 to the very second that its beefy content ceases to inhabit our airspace, I would say that Book of Clouds actually present us with a surprisingly melodic and accessible record here. It acquaints more casual fans with their expressive and, at times, overwhelming sound, and satisfies more hardcore followers like myself through its ambitious framework and exquisite tonality.
If you’re in the market for an album that will provide you with maximum intellectual stimulation this spring, Livre De Nuages Vol 1 should be at the top of your shopping list. Though admittedly a very involved listen no matter where you start in its tracklist, Livre De Nuages Vol 1 is the type of LP that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout all of its lumbering dispatches, and that isn’t something that can be said of most ambient albums of its unique stylization – nor contemporary western pop in general. I’m very impressed with what I hear in this record, and am quite excited to see what these two brilliant musicians come up with in the future both inside and outside of the studio.