Music Reviews
Cloak and Cipher

Land of Talk Cloak and Cipher

(Saddle Creek) Rating - 8/10

It could be said that Land of Talk brainchild Elizabeth Powell works best when she’s hanging by a thread. As if her personal project were cursed, Powell had been constantly dealing with numerous unforeseen circumstances that gravely put into question the prospect of ever releasing any more music. If a crushed dream of ever experiencing the value of working by collaboration was never to be due to countless band changes, what topped the cake for Powell was a hemorrhaging polyp on her vocal chords. Fighting through thick and thin, Powell managed to regain her voice – best of all, finally finding some stability with the backup of her longest running band lineup.

Fortunately, physical limitations are meant to open the path for self-discovery, disclosing other anonymous inhibitions you never knew you had. In Powell’s case, Cloak and Cipher was meant to be her greathearted return to form, creating a new batch of songs that could only symbolize a personal renaissance.  Instead of prioritizing the lyrical content like in Some Are Lakes, the complex instrumentation would now become the core basis for establishing an emotional rapport. Written with a profusion of vitality, Land of Talk’s third effort tones down the quasi absurdity for a leaner and more technically dexterous sound. Though it may be faulted for boasting a more conservative, Canadian indie rock sound, the strength in these songs lies in how they manage to find new ways to deliver their cyclical verse/chorus/verse structures.

Cloak and Cipher kicks off the festivities with throbbing bass tones, sparse piano tones, and snare redouble build-ups. Immediately, they capture the spirit of letting loose with a vast selection of charming little touches like piano keys and enchanting choruses to make splendorific statements out of conventional pop structures. This optimistic nature is noticeably perceived in Quarry Hymns’ vibrating and continuous chord progressions, leaving enough space for Powell to fully embrace her playful, yet childlike vocal delivery. Banglee Bee proves to be especially memorable, blasting some powerful guitar layers to be a foil for the thin keyboard touches that precede it.

Most of the songs in Cloak and Cipher glimmer with impenetrable hooks and elegant pedaling with the purpose of gifting climatic moments. These build-ups are the bread and butter of Land of Talk’s brand spanking repertoire, favoring a wholly sonic experience instead of parting the songs into different little elements. In fact, this rinse-lather-repeat approach of momentarily letting loose some melodic hooks after gently constructing a linear footing works effectively when the purpose is trying to innovate the five minute pop song. Though it may be considered to be the most tedious moment in Cloak and CipherPlayita works this formula seamlessly because it understands that it will establish a richer sound the more stripped down it sounds. Joseph Yarmuch’s dense bass notes gallop breathlessly, providing warmth to Powell’s sultry vocals before crashing into a wave of relentless riffage, thus achieving a loving closure.

In actuality, Cloak and Cipher’s classic alterna-pop is meant to be nothing more than a guitar album. Swift Coin chugs some classic guitar-pop, scorching a wall of powerful riff scratches and surefire drum work. It is one of many moments that round out Land of Talk’s dominance over their material, leaving the listener content and with a satisfactory smile. So what if the end result doesn’t reveal much newness. Cloak and Cipher is unpretentious in every respect, escalating their previous subtleties with furious, transcendent melancholic moments. While many Canadian bands find themselves teetering on the edge after much premature praise, it comes as a pleasant surprise that Land of Talk keep getting better.