Cloud Becomes Your Hand makes music that elicits vocabulary of physical space more than that of music. Listening to the eight tracks on Rest In Fleas feels like wandering through a strange and fantastical landscape inhabited by swarming insects, visions of childhood blankets, a storm at sea, and a shroom growing out of a shoe under a boulder. As you might have guessed, the Brooklyn-based band borrows heavily from psychedelic music and its more art-inclined cousin, prog-rock, and its structures meander journey-like through futuristic synths, retro flutes, and other voices. Each new instrument and lyrical image feels like an encounter with an otherworldly being.
The name of the band comes from a former project of founder Stephe Cooper, referring to a stage direction about a cloud hand puppet. Throughout Rest In Fleas, the band pulls the same kind of playful switcheroo, where things constantly transform into others. On “Bridge of Ignorance Returns,” a synth voice sounds like the speech of a small alien creature; on the more accessible songs, such as “Garden of the Ape” and “Made of Teak,” comprehensible structures break down midway into chaos; and on “Rest in Fleas,” “teeth are eyebrows” and a “head is an apple.” Added to music-box synth sounds littered throughout, the surreal mutations feel like the effect of funhouse mirrors in a child’s dream carnival.
Of course, many carnivals have a seedy underbelly, and as the title of Cloud Becomes Your Hand’s album suggests, it has one, too. At the start of the title track, after the line about teeth eyebrows and apple heads, the singer continues, “I live in the sewer / And I drink my own vomit,” a line more hilariously skeevy than actually dark. But the tone of Rest In Fleas does occasionally sound ominous. The mostly-instrumental “Bridge Of Ignorance Returns,” for example, begins with a low, sinister riff and urgent, driving percussion, and while instrumental voices later sound like funny creatures, they first resemble quiet screams. And even though “Rest in Fleas” relies on a silly wordplay, its premise is clear: “Rest in fleas / Someday they’ll bury me.”
In an album that is resoundingly mischievous and experimental in a lighthearted way, these moments are just the shadowy corners. After “Aye Aye” breaks down in the middle, it picks up its catchy melody again as if nothing ever happened; this is the way the whole album trudges merrily on. Each moment—usually delightful, sometimes menacing, and often confounding—is another step on the journey (or rather, trip) through Cloud Becomes Your Hand’s remarkable terrain.