An Arabesque is Cloudland Canyon's first album since 2010's shoegaze-leaning Fin Eaves, which was their first album without co-founder Simon Wojan. Since that album, the group has collaborated extensively with Spacemen 3's Sonic Boom, who mastered and contributed to the band's inter-album singles. Cloudland Canyon's work has always been heavily rooted in Krautrock, but their earlier albums tended to veer toward extended spaced-out droning. Here, joined by an extensive cast including former members of Big Star, the Flaming Lips, and LCD Soundsystem, the group sharpens its focus a bit, with upfront rhythms that are propulsive and even playful. Opener "Where's the Edge" is a muscular, amped-up take on the group's usual Motorik rhythm, feeling like it's racing down the speedway. From there, however, the group flips to a sort of shimmering cosmic space disco, but with more of a minimal-wave edge in line with many of the releases on Medical Records, who released the album. The album's standout title track is more of a scattered indie electronic pop song in the vein of High Places, with the twin vocals of married duo Kip and Kelly Uhlhorn reflecting in a pool of echo against gently pulsating synths, pounding drums, and a bit of romantic, moonlit saxophone. The group does return to a rocket-powered hypnotic rhythm on the vocoder-laden "Rebuilding Capture," but the remainder of the album settles into a swirling Spacemen 3 haze, marrying ambient guitars with thumping electronic beats and synth arpeggios on "Staying Awake," and toning the drum machine down for the heartbroken "Psychic Insistant." The wide-ranging album finds Cloudland Canyon branching out much further than on previous releases, and while it has its messy moments, particularly the segues between songs, it sports some of the group's most memorable material.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson