Cumulus Mood Twang

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The band's second full-length record, and the first featuring new core member Erin Anderson in place of the departed Brodie Budd, Cumulus found Sean O'Neal and company deciding to aim farther beyond simply trying for Stereolab equivalency exams. If anything, it's a partial look ahead to Flowchart's half-serious, half-silly incarnation as Flowtron, at least if the opening groove "Envelopment Continuum" is any indication. Pitched somewhere between a politer New Order and the breathy, echoed touch of Laetitia Sadier and her own influences, it's an alternately sprightly and calmer way to kick off this very enjoyable disc, fading away on vocal and keyboards loops. The hint of My Bloody Valentine Loveless-era and Seefeel drones toward the end is more than a slight giveaway at other sources of inspiration throughout Cumulus. There's not as much in the way of Kevin Shields-styled heavy guitar queasiness, but the same sense of heavy processing and woozy, drowsy vocals crops up more than once. Wisely, nothing is an exact revamp, and O'Neal loves throwing in some surprises. Consider the initial wash of "Another Word Explodes," which suddenly adds in a relentless near-electronic body music drum punch while forcing everything into higher frequencies -- and then starts adding in further drones, muddy string sections, and more. Compared to many similar bands and albums who don't look past the basic sound and style of the originals, Flowchart works because the blend is so far-reaching, as apt to draw from random vocal samples as it is from polite, dreamy synth-pop and more besides. There's organ/massed chorale numbers ("Yosho"), enjoyable sped up-singing, and soaring arrangements over clattering beats ("Rust a la Glare"), and more. About the only thing wrong with the album is that it's not more well-known, because it's a definite cracker.

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