CD Review: Land of Talk “Cloak and Cipher”

I cannot solve ciphers. At least not yet, anyway. Released on August 24, Land of Talk’s sophomore album, Cloak and Cipher, is just that to me – a cipher I cannot solve.  The album is an incredibly ambitious juxtaposition of tantalizing poetry and concrete rock, but leaves me wanting. Why?

Elizabeth Powell (singer, songwriter and guitarist), Eion O Laoghaire (bassist) and Andrew Barr (drummer), with the help of a few talented friends (members of Stars, Wintersleep, Besnard Lakes, Arcade Fire, Esmerine and Patrick Watson) have begun to unlock a treasure chest of music. Swirling, sweeping, rough, delicate, cold, hot and dark lyrics lament over lost love, love lacking, longing for lasting light, and letting go for liberation.

The thrashing guitar and drum sequence alongside distorted piano in “The Hate I Won’t Commit” is epic, and the melancholic horns and ominous melody in “Colour Badd” is heart wrenching, yet each song leaves in a puff of smoke. With members coming and going, I can understand how fluidity may be lost between albums, or songs even. How will their music transcend through time and space then?

A clue: First composing the music, Powell found the words by piecing together newspaper clippings and book passages like a puzzle, until she found herself in them. Cloak and Cipher. Ingenious. Except, why then, in the piece “Quarry Hymns” when Powell sings “I could take apart my window,” did I find myself yelling, “So do it! And let’s see what happens?!” Perhaps this album is a prologue to the next – a key.

Despite my conundrum, I believe Land of Talk’s Cloak and Cipher will curiously settle in and amongst the precious record collections of rockers, just as a key waits for the unlocking.

Rating: 7.5/10

For more on Land of Talk: