There are no poppy hooks in Book of Clouds’ new record Livre De Nuages Vol 1, nor are there danceable beats or relentless rhymes. To be perfectly clear, there isn’t anything present in its six intriguing tracks to tie the duo to any element of mainstream music. In Livre De Nuages Vol 1 and the five different “Chapitres” that follow it’s opening salvo (titled simply “Prélude”), there is only opulent white noise that is slowly but surely stylized into a symphonic masterpiece of epic proportions. Here, the guitar is the god of all emotion, and even in its most muted of cries, it expresses a smorgasbord of evocative tones that simply have no translation in any human language – or rather, at least none that I’ve ever heard. The aptly-named Book of Clouds deliver the ultimate ambient release of the spring, and possibly the most jarring and provocatively designed experimental record of the late 2010s in this album, and whether you’re well-versed in noise music or not, I would encourage anyone with a taste for the avant-garde to give it a go as soon as possible.
There’s a lot of tension in the first half of the record that is eventually balanced by the catharsis that washes over us in “Chapitre 4” and subsequently bleeds into the concluding fifth track. Frequently, the grizzly tonality of the basslines becomes frighteningly violent and tumultuous – most notably towards the middle of the record – but every time it feels like this band is about to go off the rails and into the pitfalls of excess, they throw a different color of smoke in our direction and guide us back to somewhat familiar territory. Listening to this album in a single sitting is like taking in a large postmodern art gallery; by the time it’s all over, you’re going to feel a little mentally drained from the intellectual calisthenics that these exhibits force us to participate in, but I wouldn’t say that the experience is any more demanding than what you would expect out of consuming any slick piece of noise music. This is a surprisingly smooth-running disc for primarily being a mix of live cuts, which tells me that once Book of Clouds finally does make their way into the studio, the results are going to be top-notch at the very minimum.
Pristinely produced and at times haunting and otherworldly, Book of Clouds’ new album is an unforgettable, anthological treasure chest of modern ambient bliss that you won’t find just by thumbing through the latest arrivals at your local record store. These two performers have an immense connection with each other that is leading to some really exciting developments when they share the same stage, and for my money, it doesn’t get much more striking than what they put together on Livre De Nuages Vol 1. Both Federico Balducci and Ian C. Bouras have the attention of the entire ambient underground on them right now, but from the looks of this first sampling, it would appear that they haven’t even considered squandering this amazing opportunity that has been placed in front of them. They’re making sensational noise, and Livre De Nuages Vol 1 is only just the start of their professional journey together.