Land Of Talk, Cloak and Cipher
Having (literally) lost its voice, Land of Talk recovers, forcefully
There's a Bon Iver-like back story behind Cloak and Cipher, the slow-burning follow-up to Land of Talk's 2008 debut, Some Are Lakes. Shortly after touring with fellow Ontarians Broken Social Scene in fall 2008, front lady Elizabeth Powell was diagnosed with a vocal polyp and sidelined for several months of silence and speech therapy. Stuck in her house and forbidden to speak, with just old books and half-written guitar lines for company, she slowly started to piece together what would become her second full-length — not like you could tell from listening to the record, which thunders and surges as much as the first.
Powell and her current three-man line-up seem to have directed their ample energies in a slightly different direction, aiming less at tightly-wound, guitar-gnarled excess ("Give Me Back My Heart Attack") and more at the sort of measured intensity that BSS & Co. are known for (see: "Swift Coin," "Hamburg, Noon"). But Powell's main gift is still her voice: distinctive, compelling and untrained, it recalls Cat Power numbers like "Quarry Hymns" and skews toward the serrated clarity of Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker in more vehement moments. It's indicative that, though Powell sings mostly about nothing (newspaper headlines, context-less phrases, passages from books she took apart out of boredom), you still get the sense that she's saying a lot. The resulting album is both forceful and unreal — like a lucid dream or being forced to spend months hermit-like, not speaking.