[Album Review] Cloud Tangle – “Swells” released 7/4/21

Cloud Tangle is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist and producer Amber Ramsay, which combines visual media and composition to evoke a mood equally devastating and beautiful. The project formed in late 2014 and founded its relevance in 2016 through live shows in Brisbane. Stemming from bedroom focused production and expansive instrumentation; the project forms its own unique sound that falls into a dark dream-pop genre with elements of lo-fi and orchestral instrumentation. (https://www.4000records.com/artists/cloud-tangle)

Hot on the heels of her debut album “Kinds of Sadness” Ramsay drops her guitar-centric stylings for the immersive and transcendental synth laden stylings of her sophomore album “Swells” (out now – available digitally only).

If you are looking for background music or something to have you singing along then you are in the wrong place. Think Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ – it’s an immersive journey that can only be taken with full attention given to the album and the responses it provokes on a personal level.

Settle yourself on your couch or in that warm bath, close your eyes, slow your breathing, and transcend with the hauntingly delicate and refined vocals of Cloud Tangle to regions beyond and enter the depths and layers of your soul perhaps never knew you had.

“Swells” begins with a 2-minute self-titled track bringing the ambience straight to your door and gently descending your being down through celestial spacings into the melancholy and somber darkness that follows…

Enter what I feel is the star track on the album conveying moodiness and personal reflective responses. ‘Sinking Feeling’ starts with a pulsing beat constructed using piano and percussion as the focus with light sprinkles of sound surrounding it in fairy like fashion before it widens into an expanse of dreamy musical landscapes. Coupled with Ramsay’s haunting vocals and the simple lyrical content I drifted slowly through the ‘Sinking Feeling’ of human emotions – the dispirited side of life!

From this depth I found the tracks level out somewhat keeping me buoyant in ‘stasis like’ fashion. ‘Stare’ and ‘Empty Company’, both solid foundations and less ethereal in composition but still with decadent musicality and purpose to enjoy.

‘Mechanism’ a purely instrumental piece comes in mid-way through the album and reinvigorated my journey. Again, Cloud Tangle brings back the pulsating beats but with a repetitive melody hidden behind which had me envisioning cogs and time pieces. Here we have the introduction of Sax tones to add texture to the piece. I felt as though this track was a kind of ‘crossroads’ a place where you could connect with the inner workings of your physiology as you imagine each muscle, each valve chugging away keeping you alive through your deepest darkest torment.

‘Confined’ brought me back into the quieter side before ‘Repetition’ broadsided me with its strength utilising a heavier drum based timbre. The ambience moving and astral like not dissimilar to when you see the comet passing the spaceship window in a good Sci Fi flick! But it is naught to do with spaceships…listen closely to the lyrics in this one.

‘Gabriel’s dream’ is where we get to have the vocals shine and give clarity among the soundscapes. With less of the haunting atmosphere as aforementioned they are presented in a somewhat clearer context and it’s here that we engage with Ramsay herself on a personal level. Her vocals smooth, soft yet full of a rawness as though the emotion would somehow crack or break through her performance.

Without even realising it somehow I’ve made the journey back to the surface and ‘Feedback’ lifts me out of the abyss with the gentleness ‘Swells’ took me in.

Ethereal vocals soar above intricate melodies and lush synthesizers, dragging you ever downward into a floating atmosphere. The sonic elements gather with rawness and texture, while lyrical content stems from deep concepts of human emotions. (https://www.4000records.com/artists/cloud-tangle)

Not a truer statement was made in my opinion. This was as I said in the beginning a journey of immersion. One where with my eyes closed, I was able to visualise and feel many concepts of my own being and emotional make up. A few of the songs pertained to moments currently unfolding in my life and invoked appropriate emotional responses – so there was a deep connection.

Since receiving my copy of “Swells” I’ve taken the journey with Cloud Tangle many times and what you get out of it will undoubtly not be the same as what I did but I encourage you to take the journey all the same.

I don’t know anything about lo-fi bedroom productions to comment on so I have to stick to how it made me feel however Amber Ramsay has a goal to encourage DIY artists to explore and pursue their creative passion independently. Those artists should sit up and take notice of Cloud Tangle and what Ramsay the sole performer, writer and producer has achieved with “Swells”.

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(All images courtesy of Lyla Grey)

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