Possibly Finland’s greatest export next to Santa Claus, Helsinki’s Clouds (duo Tommi Liikka and Samuli Tanner) were thrust upon the dubstep scene back in 2007 with their utterly seminal release Shallow on Tes La Rok’s Noppa label, featuring the dreamy Joanna Newsom’s “Book of Right On” a capella in direct contrast to their unique claustrophobic bass-heavy stylings to exceptional effect. Since then, they have released on respected labels such as Deep Medi Musik, Ramp Recordings, Argon and 2nd Drop.
Their latest offering, USB Islands – their first since 2008’s Timekeeper – shows their return to Ramp Recordings. Ramp have a tendency to shelve records, so it’s hard to tell just how old these selections are, but with a follow-up remix 12” out soon, we can assume most of them are as fresh as sweet homemade lemonade on a sunny Vancouver afternoon.
Opening numbers “Cannibal Generals” and “Four Hands” cut into deep and dark territory, at times reminding me of early Mala and Coki’s Digital Mystikz project, but never veering from the unique Clouds sound, with only the darkest modular synths squeezing through filters to get that last gasp of air before being sucked back under to let those subs do their magic.
“You Go to My Head” is definitely not new, but sits perfectly here. Sloppy drums and a wonderful vocal sample marry with the beginnings of a beautiful harp melody only to stop abruptly.
[Clouds note to self: Replace all things beautiful with mid frequency bass, plenty of sub pressure and almost nothing else. Solid minimalism at its finest. Add church bell, token synths, nominal vocal stabs and leave to set.]
“I’ll Be Broke” is a playful soul-styled track, with seriously over-processed vocals and spikey, slightly out-of-tune keys. Imagine Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, pre-Boards of Canada, with their brand new Nord Lead, 12 cans of special brew, no formal training and a Craig David a capella. What a beautiful mess this is. I’d imagine even Clouds don’t take themselves too seriously (sometimes) – and it is abundantly clear here – but it’s short and sweet, and let’s be honest, no harm done.
Some late-night head-nodding business for the finale: “Get Over It”, a sweet, deep track. Lotta-Liina Salonen is rendering me unconscious with her enigmatic softness, delicately avoiding a melody with short monotone sentences massaged into the analog crackles and wood blocks. A heavenly compressed mix to lure me into R.E.M. This is bliss.
This release is available locally at Red Cat Records.