CLOUD CONTROL didn't exactly record their new album in a cave. Well, at least not all of it. But at Dream Cave's close, sure enough, you can hear it: the echo of water dripping, falling onto living rock, intermingled with the voices of the band as they sing through naturally made cloaks of reverb.
"We've always liked reverb and we wanted to find interesting spaces to record in," says the band's keyboardist/vocalist, Heidi Lenffer. The group had already written a new song called "Dream Cave," and it sparked an idea. "After a bit of research, we found there are plenty of cave systems in the UK, so we launched about four different day trips and tried out the acoustics in various caverns and settled on a hand-cut quarry which was chiseled out by the Romans 2,000 years ago.
"There were bats, but they were asleep," Lenffer adds. "We didn't even wake them."
The cave session included some vocal tracks, as well as adding natural reverb to some of their existing tracks—"where you just play your track into the cave and put a mic at the back of the cave and record the reverb around that sound," Lenffer explains. "It just gives it a nice dirty sound. You'll never get the drippiness [from a studio]. We were playing under raindrops that fell 300 years ago. You can't replicate that."
Exotic recording locales aside, Dream Cave is a fantastic, delectable record on its own terms, as engaging and addictive a pop record as exists in 2013. Each song contains a world in miniature, from the steady hand of "Dojo Rising" to the zooming soar of "Ice Age Heatwave," from the needle-sharp creep of "Promises" to the sunshine daydream of "Moonrabbit." The album builds to a soaring, heart-stopping conclusion with the title track—a power ballad/cave painting that's one of the year's best songs. Dream Cave is a marked contrast to most albums released in the internet age, which can usually be boiled down to one or two essential tracks for a playlist. But there's not a single weak moment on Dream Cave, which comes out in the US on September 17; there's no song that will require the fast-forward button.
Guitarist/vocalist Alister Wright and bassist Jeremy Kelshaw round out the band, while Lenffer's brother Ulrich sits behind the drum kit. Cloud Control got their start in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, first forming to play a university talent show. After their first album Bliss Release won the Australian Music Prize, the band followed in the footsteps of Australian bands before them—the Easybeats, the Bee Gees, the Masters Apprentices—and relocated to London to take their music to the European market. Dream Cave is the result of the band's full-time focus on their musical careers, while settling into their English home away from home.
"It was a focused push, done over a year," Lenffer says. "I don't know if that's long or short. We're not very good at writing on tour—we've tried, but failed largely. We decided to put aside 2012 to solely write the second record, and we did that in various locations; we spent a month in France on an island just of the west coast, but most of the record was written in and around East London. We spent time in each other's lounge rooms, and then we'd mix it up. I think the key was variety: We'd try rehearsing for a bit, and then we'd do a casual acoustic jam. We're not a very prolific band in terms of writing; some of the songs take months to develop. But we had a much more liberal approach to how we wanted it to sound. We wanted to expand with each song, and take it where it was going to go naturally, rather than have any sonic limitations or a grand vision sonically."
Prior to this tour, the band could count their American shows on one hand. This marks Cloud Control's first time to Portland, and the word of mouth around our city has put it on the short list of possible new places for the band to live. "There've been some murmurings about either moving back to Australia or giving up our apartments and just living on the road. Nothing's set," Lenffer says. "If things go well in America, we're all loving being here, so who knows?"