Cloud Becomes Your Hand Press
Tiny Mix Tapes: South By Southwest Review (3/14)
CBYH put on the best show of SXSW, bar none. I’m almost afraid to write about it, lest my memories fade once I’ve committed them to paper. But persevere I must, because you must know of their charms, especially if you’ve heard the album, because, to me, there’s a huge gap between what Cloud Becomes Your Hand achieve on-record (somewhat of a post-Curtains feel) as opposed to in a live setting, their off-brand mind-pop growing wings before your very eyes. Not that the record isn’t good; it’s just that a cut like “Bay Shamps,” in all its slide-whistling, xylophone-ing majesty, doesn’t quite hit home unless you can see exactly what they’re doing, because it’s rare to see a band in which each member seems to be accomplishing something completely different. And the performance-art aspect of the show took things up yet another notch as the quintet acted as a strange variety of dance troupe, lining up parallel in order to use their limbs to communicate, then falling out, crawling about, and finally huddling together under a blanket for the final moments of worshipful drone via “Waste Park.” I hadn’t heard a note of Cloud’s music before this show, so I (and you!) have a lot of work to do.
New Yorker (3/3/13)
...Cloud Becomes Your Hand can go from tribal to medieval to cacophonous in a single piece. With brilliant melodies, blippy video-game sounds, and Syd Barrett-esque lyrics, Cloud Becomes Your Hand feels like a joyful journey through a strange land.
Stereogum: Bands to Watch (1/17/14)
It was nearing the end of the first night of Boston Hassle Fest, after everyone shuffled through the November cold from the Lightning Bolt set at the Elk’s Lodge over to Cantab Lounge for the final bill of late-night acts. I was standing in the hot, crowded bar, mainly there to see Krill, when through the chaos the band on stage began to play some of the strangest music I had heard all night: a series of chaotically colorful songs that swerved through the rowdy bar, tying themselves into tricky experimental knots before bursting free with melodic fireworks. At the time, I wrote, these songs “sounded like punk rock coming from a music box.” I learned the band’s moniker — Cloud Becomes Your Hand — along with some plans for a debut album in the new year. Now it’s 2014, and after repeated listens to that debut, Rocks Or Cakes, I can safely call Cloud Becomes Your Hand one of the most exciting and wonderfully strange bands I’ve encountered in some time.
Cloud Becomes Your Hand began as the solo bedroom project of guitarist and vocalist Stephe Cooper (the name is a reference to a cloud hand-puppet Cooper used as part of a previous band’s stage show). After recording a number of songs, Cooper got together a full band in order to bring his music to a live setting. And that band’s chemistry is fully realized on the upcoming Rocks Or Cakes. On the album, the band plays music that’s avant-garde while also infectiously catchy. Tracks are often structured like a labyrinth, while sounding like a carnival. Listen to the opening beat of “Felt Beetle” (below) for instance: It’s the first song on Rocks Or Cakes and suggests punk rock before ecstatically shooting in every direction, as jazzy keyboards, Residents-style chants, rushing melodies, and pounding percussion mix and match. It’s a focused opener on an album often just as happy to let its songs hang and float in fluidity — from the shimmering folk pop of “Sand Of Sea” to “Theme From Baby Age,” which pairs energetic violins with elastic lounge keyboard riffs that sound straight out of B-52 Pat Irwin’s surreally sleazy score for Rocko’s Modern Life.
Rocks Or Cakes is unpredictable, and it’s easy to sift through the tracks to find multiple hook-worthy moments. Meanwhile the longest cut on the album, “Bay Shamps,” acts as a sort of centerpiece, as it explores and deconstructs its main opening riff. When it finally tumbles into the mix it sounds as unwieldy as it does excited — it comes leaping in like a big, friendly dog unaware of its size. The track grows sparser and eventually floats down into a lengthy drone as quiet snippets of the melodies resurface like faded memories.
Cloud Becomes Your Hand is so skilled at breaking and challenging song structures that they occasionally bring to mind Jim O’Rourke and David Grubbs’ legendary collaborative band Gastr Del Sol, who stretched the idea of a song to (and often past) its structural breaking point, though Cooper’s crew allow more color and warmth to come through. A great example comes midway through the mercurial pop of “Sand Of Sea,” as sampled sounds of gargling gently blend into the rest of the music. Rocks Or Cake really has to be heard from start to finish, as each track responds and adjusts to the ones surrounding it. For now, though, enjoy a perfect one-two punch introduction via “Felt Beetle” and “Sand Of Sea,” plus a new video for the song “Doggy Paddle,” directed by Japanese animator Nanako Tsuruta. You can see them in the next few months when they open for Guerilla Toss.
Relix Magazine: Rocks or Cakes album review (6/4/14)
Cloud Becomes Your Hand’s proper full-length debut, Rocks Or Cakes, thrills, buzzes, dives, surprises, effortlessly manages the task of being complex and light-handed simultaneously, bursts into prog-fusion star-shapes (“Bees Going Postal”), bends into unexpected circus counterpoints and toy piano tangents (“Bay Shamps”), features a song about a sevenheaded underwater creature that is ridiculous in all the best ways without being silly (“Sand of Sea”), challenges without being obnoxious, plays without being wasteful, dances like aliens are watching, sounds like a run-on interior monologue careening around the head of a benevolent eccentric group mind, is filled with colorful and imaginative passages, makes operatic Harry Partch-like speak-singing Beatles-y and pleasing (“Nuclei Spinoffs”), and is one of the most unique albums you will or won’t hear this year.
Scott Scholz/Words on Sounds: Rocks or Cakes Album Review (3/25/14)
For several pleasant weeks, I have been absolutely tripping over myself with adoration for "Rocks or Cakes," the new album from Cloud Becomes Your Hand. These jams have sailed through the "stages of joy" most of my all-time favorites have done to my head: on the virgin voyage, this record surprises and delights with every turn of phrase, refusing to be defined, drawing from any kind of musical approach it needs to define its own magical space. In subsequent listening, it quickly feels like a familiar friend, music that's somehow been in your head all along but you couldn't make it out before. Upon even further listening, the detailed recording quality and meticulous arrangements continue to reveal new facets of these beautiful songs, imparting new secrets with every spin. Endlessly creative and catchy as hell, this is one for the ages, carefully composed, brilliantly arranged, and perhaps most importantly, deeply felt.
A lot of these tunes are rooted in 60s Canterbury scene vibes, with the gentle upbeat organs of early Soft Machine, the playful carnival atmosphere of early Gong, and the twisting, unpredictable melodies of "Uncle Meat"-era Zappa. And primary composer, vocalist, and guitarist Stephe Cooper's voice reminds me a lot of Dominique Leone (which is awesome, as his voice is pure gold). But those are surface impressions--while this music is incredibly approachable, it's fiercely unique on repeated listening. There are lost b-movie sci-fi soundtracks, weirdo hoedowns, childhood adventures into secluded wooden lots, and vaguely friendly monsters hidden under beds lurking everywhere in "Rocks or Cakes."
I don't want to do a play-by-play of this album, as it's only 35 minutes long and you should totally take the time and reward yourself. If I had to pick a few favorites, though, I'm in love with the Daevid Allen-ish progression in "Sand of Sea" and the great unison-doubled melodies near its center. The wah guitars doubling vocals in "Rat Jumps" are amazing, as is the alien soundscape the whole tune establishes. And the back-to-back tunes that open the b-side of the vinyl edition, "Bees Going Postal" and "Bay Shrimps," are packed with melodies, countermelodies, and fun shifts in dynamics that feel like short films--"Bay Shrimps" especially exhibits its fantastic main melody in a carnival of variations and changes in density. Deep motivic development or "Forbidden Zone" outtakes? Both, dear reader.
This album is a sound lover's dream. If you're listening to a string quartet or a piano trio or the like, timbre is mostly pre-determined by the instruments involved, and the musical focus shifts to melody, harmony, and rhythm. But timbre takes on equal importance in some kinds of imaginative music. "Rocks and Cakes" is a masterful example of very genre-inclusive songwriting rising to the next level with orchestration and sound design choices that are obviously as patiently conceived as the melodic ideas and formal structures. One of the biggest reasons this music can simultaneously feel universal and otherworldly is the obvious dedication to getting every sound into an ideal position. The big-picture concepts in the music feel like they come from pure moments of inspiration, which keeps the music fresh and immediate, but the key to finding yourself fully embraced in the technicolor dreams of other artists is this precise reworking of arrangements and sounds. Every synth tone is exactly right, every effect pedal is dialed in, and every unison line, tiny countermelody, or subtle rhythmic interjection is perfectly placed to highlight all facets of this joyous music.
I love the core instrumentation of this band, too: how many touring bands are working with a full time mallet percussionist nowadays? The bits of vibraphone and marimba one can clearly make out on the album add a massive amount of style and depth to this recording, and it's hard to even imagine how much mallet percussion work is actually on this record: the malletKAT instrument is its own kind of MIDI interface, and I imagine a lot of the synth sounds might be combinations of keyboard and malletKAT work. The violins, synths, drums, and guitars are all immaculately played, too. While this isn't an album of virtuoso shred moments, these are very complex contrapuntal avant-pop arrangements that would fall apart in the hands of less dedicated musicians. These are achingly beautiful performances that add up to a lot of fun.
You can pick up the CD/digital editions of "Rocks or Cakes" from Northern Spy, and the LP version was released by Feeding Tube. Cloud Becomes Your Hand is on tour right now, and word on the street is that their live show is extraordinary--check their website for dates. For my local Lincoln readers, they're going to be at Duffy's this Sunday (March 30). See you there--and save an LP for me, dudes!
Decoder Magazine: Rocks or Cakes album review (6/6/14)
Energy pumps through Cloud Becomes Your Hand‘s Northern Spy/Feeding Tube début, Rocks or Cakes. The album features a range of blissful synthetic sounds, boundless percussion, and violin, but the consistently upbeat energy of the songs outpaces any specific sound or part. As a quintet, Cloud Becomes Your Hand have enough ammunition to pair percussion against their synthesizers, or hold the drums hostage with effected electronics, though everything might drop out just in time for a rowdy violin riff that carries the song. With two players devoted to percussion, two others to electronics, guitar, etc., and a lone violin player, the quintet play like improvisational madmen in some spots and more composed rock artists at others. Regardless of the forms their songs take, the timbre on Rocks and Cakes is consistently upbeat and bright.
After an angular opening track, Cloud Becomes Your Hand settle into their rock songwriting early in their album. On the laid back “Sand of the Sea,” soft acoustic guitar swirls behind loose samples and synthetic couples, tethering each element of the song to this honest backdrop. Here, the quintet establish their “box,” for the album, which allows them to reach as far as possible with some of their free compositions. Not until “Nuclei Spinoffs” does the group return fully to the box, this time offsetting earnest group folk with spooky synth-orchestras swooping over.
The poles of these compositions leap from subdued key exercises to raw ensemble flare-ups. At each of these poles, the band blends acoustic and electric sounds that add a dimension to songs that may feel like bony hardcore or ensemble experimental music. With these acoustic and electric elements, Cloud Becomes Your Hand are able to convey their energy with textures as much as their rhythms. Since their rhythms expand and contract through basic rock structures and free flourishes, these textures present a surprising range of instrumentation.
“Theme from Baby Age” and “Bees Going Postal” showcase the violin as lead, in the former as a lead-riff earworm and an engaging cycle on the latter. Even if the band produces experimental excursions, some of this album’s simplest pop elements are also among its most memorable. These little nuggets will drive you mad throughout the album, for the group may not return to such catchy riffs later on. As a result, the quintet plays all out on their pop songs, which produces a surprisingly intense sound, given the album’s bright instrumental notes. Given that parts of the album were recorded separately, the feeling of interaction and energy throughout the album is impressive.
When the synthetic elements take over, Rocks or Cakes moves into repetitive meditations. “Waste Park” and “Glimpse of Hot Glove” exemplify these repetitions, albeit from different directions. A distorted electronic wave struggles to take over “Waste Park,” while “Glimpse of Hot Glove” finds the group diving into organ-driven motorik. From the earlier rock boxes on the album, as well as the angular, hardcore feeling from the live, driving “Felt Beetle,” Rocks and Cakes serves as an effective transition from traditional song to experimental sounds. The catchy effects and infectious tones make this a punk’s perfect gateway drug to more expansive genres.
Beyond the range of synthetic tones, the interaction between acoustic and electric elements, or the ensemble compositions, Rocks or Cakes delivers an energy or attitude to its listener. This makes it difficult to approach the album from one specific vantage point, but it is easy to embrace the sonic range once caught up into the general wave that surges through these songs. While Cloud Becomes Your Hand establish an ambitious set by giving themselves a wide open template of sounds to follow from here out, it is their energy, dynamic, and textures that seem most compelling.
Jam Base Review (4/15/14)
Cloud Becomes Your Hand plays the musical equivalent of interpretative dance… or maybe a puppet show? I believe I read that their band name references puppets that perhaps were once part of their act? Their debut album is chock full of weird, but delightfully so. Sounds go in and out of sync, and really what are those sounds – guitars and drums are there, but so are all sorts of other bits of music and sounds. The thing about these guys is that as out-there as they go, the songs retain their hooks and their groove and never feel in danger of unraveling altogether.
I had a chance to catch these guys a month or so ago at one of the many DIY rooms in Brooklyn. With the cinder-block, spontaneous-party-in-the-basement feel, it was a perfect setting for CBYH. In the live setting, of course, it’s easy to discern where all the sound is coming from: guitar, keys and drums, but also violin and an electrified, muted-by-gauze vibraphone (or is it a glockenspiel?) putting out a range of blips, bleeps and, occasionally, musical notes. Their slightly-off outfits, weirdo stage design and whacked- out music combine into a singular experience…you can choose how seriously you want to take it. The fact is, the music is great and seems to get better the longer you listen. What was I saying about interpretative dance? The show ended in characteristically bizarre fashion, with the entire band hopping into the crowd and going through a choreographed “dance,” possibly partially improvised that went on a lot longer than you might have expected. It was whimsical and weird and, honestly, pretty fun, just like the band. I guess it’s a regular part of their live show, you can see what I’m talking about in the video. Get off the beaten path and check ‘em out!
Pittsburgh Magazine Review (4/18/14)
The spirit of discovery has made heroes of mountain climbers and deep sea divers. We rally around it with undaunted belief that one day aliens will be our best friends, if we can just push deep enough into space. Cloud Becomes Your Hand reminds us that this magic of new worlds isn’t just on the edges of civilization; it is all around us. Like a children’s show on PBS, depicting urban life with a frenetic jazz of togetherness and purpose, theirs is the sound of exploring your own city. It is the sound of meeting all the surprising people around you.
Surrealism, Dada, psychedelia; these are just fancy words to describe the simple thing this group has done. They’ve collected a bunch of exciting sounds and tied them together with the exclamation, “We’re all here, living these wild lives with each other!” It is sentiment explaining the joy and wonder in a child’s eyes. A sentiment Cloud Becomes Your Hand reminds us is for everyone, forever.
All Music: Rocks or Cakes Album Review (2/25/14)
Brooklyn-based experimental rockers Cloud Becomes Your Hand never sit still for long on debut album Rocks or Cakes, a dense pastiche of knotty compositional rock, glimmering psychedelia, and hidden but persistent pop hooks. Standout track "Sand of Sea" quickly moves from aquatic, Beatlesque guitar and organ tones into soft, psychy vocal harmonies before breaking down into both long patches of plush chamber pop sounds and even a more acoustic take on prog rock before returning to the verse. Blippy synths and courtly guitars wander around playfully, evoking the spirit of Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Grizzly Bear, and even early Of Montreal in the space of the song's short four minutes. This fantastical blend of influences and sonic shapes runs throughout the entire album, from the Gastr del Sol-meets-Ween soft symphonics and cartoon monster vocals of "Rat Jumps" to the dizzying chimes and wide-eyed indie rock-at-the-carnival riffing of "Bay Shamps."
Tiny Mix Tapes: Signed with Northern Spy Records Announcement (11/8/13)
Clap your hands and say, “wait, what the fuck is happening? My hands seem to have morphed into a visible mass of liquid droplets how am I supposed to perform my duties at the factory or pleasure my spouse?” because Brooklyn-based acid-trip-prog band Cloud Becomes Your Hand just signed to Northern Spy...
Boston Hassle: Guerilla Toss Tour Announcement (4/3/12)
Well bless our lucky stars! Fantastic 5-piece outta Brooklyn Cloud Becomes Your Hand is here to rearrange your brain patterns with splashy sonic wonderment. Simultaneously melodious, extra-rhythmic, dense, and avant-freako weird-out insanity, the music ranges from virtuosic to primal and everything in between – The ensemble of guitar, vocals, drums, synth, violin and midi marimba wrap the jumble into an eclectic christmas present which at times recalls Zappa, The Residents, and Andre Popp, just to name a phew. All this blended with that DIY thrown-togetherness that we all know and love. Last time I saw ‘em I had to go home and soak my ears in chamomile tea for a coupla hours. Maybe the link below will explain it better. Essentially, Cloud Becomes Your Hand is what happens when Stephen Cooper (gtr, vox) and four other intelligent-ass motherfuckers get together in a poorly lit room to tell jokes, smoke butts, eat sandwiches and make new music for weirdos like you and me to enjoy. CBYH has been friendship with us in Boston for awhile now – we really love them...