Ritual Cloak – “Divine Invasions” Out May 7th via Bubblewrap Collective
Exclusive Album Premiere + Interview Special
With less than 24 hours until the official release of Ritual Cloak’s astounding sophomore album “Divine Invasions“, we had the pleasure in chatting to the pair to find out more about the creation of their masterpiece, the true influences, the recording process and their vinyl release on Bubblewrap Collective.
Ritual Cloak is comprised of Daniel Barnett, formerly of the band Samoans, and drummer / producer Andrew Sanders. The duo met in 2013 after Daniel answered an ad for a guitarist to join the backing band for singer Jemma Roper. An instant kinship was struck, with both Daniel and Andrew embracing experimentation and a shared love of electronic music. After the split of Samoans in 2018, the pair began playing around with instrumental textures and piano-led ambient soundscapes, all resulting in their well-received debut in 2019. Early tracks such as Everyone Is Hungover So I Walked The Mountain Alone were quickly picked up by BBC Radio Wales and SWN Festival, culminating in their debut live show at the festival shortly afterwards.
Following all of this and over the last 4 months, we’ve been pleased to share tracks taken from their forthcoming album and in advance of the official release, we are delighted to share their album streaming in full.
Divine Invasions Track Listing
- Opaque Crater
- Conversation (Blackmail)
- Expect Results
- I Accuse History
- High Teens Low Twenties
- Silent Running
- Running With A Mullet
- White Noise
The album in its entirety delivers this broad world of insatiable and expansive far-reaching electronic creations. All of which pulled together to unite in this expressive format. Ritual Cloak has perfected the ability to create a meaningful electronic orchestral piece with a mighty hook.
The album opens with “Opaque Crater”, your first introduction to this record, and the opener will leave an impressive and long-lasting impression, so much so, you’ll need to hit repeat and embrace the electronic composition time and time again. Opaque Crater starts with this hypnotic scale of notes chiming along and becoming the addictive core to this track. The shining chimes emitting from the tone of the mesmerizing musical movement that is on display within those frequent notes reflect the ambiguous addictive tendencies to the music playing from a fun-fair. This resemblance is mirrored from the promising pull the band has created coming from their sound. There’s a real resemblance to the neon-lit, communal accessibility of amusement bouncing off the consuming tone of this immediate scale. As the notes continue to push the momentum of the exploration, gradual addition of sustained keys soaked in some delay adds this darker intensity and detail and counterbalances the seemingly shimmering passage that instigated the ensemble. The darker notes add a more serious turn to the release. Then just 1 minute into the track, the beat kicks in. The abrupt tempo is enough to provide a challenging drive to the arrangement. This joined by the distinct low-end attributes which add yet another complex layer to the enveloping, rich creation.
“Conversation (Blackmail)” embraces this dark vibe, a daring low-end key plays into the realm of this vision. Instantly atmospherical, heavier textures assist to form the mighty structure for this soaring single release. Just 2 tracks into the album and Ritual Cloak prove their fearless approach is unstoppable. The ground this pair cover and the size of their sound it reflects the energy of an outfit double in size but here Ritual Cloak are developing this intense album with a gargantuan soundscape. “Expect Results” is a shorter ensemble from the pair, piercing high-end notes play into this intricate yet vibrant landscape, elongated notes, resonating claps, and this compelling angular tone shifting throughout the journey. “I accuse History” showcases this jagged, sharper imagery found within the crushing tone that emits to provide this engaging and alluring ambiance.
Elsewhere on the album, we experience “High Teens Low Twenties” which starts with the crucial manipulation of organic textures and natural tones against this cascading wave of tender white noise. The atmosphere instantly provides this compelling current to the rich release, the beat begins to build and the power strengthens, the building of this intricate piece becomes an aspect to easily fixate on but before long you are at the center of this immersive creation. This bass low end emerges before the melody makes itself well known. Ritual Cloak has delicately developed this lasting atmospheric ensemble, drawing on these minimalist attributes before the addition of this cutting somewhat jarring synth wave that devours your full attention. With High Teens Low Twenties, the arrangement faces this clashing structure, colliding moments of space and softer notes with sudden intense and brash synth formations. The outfit infuses these delectable floor-filling beats into the spacious yet industrial-edged soundscape.
As the album progresses, the penultimate release allows “White Noise” to flow into the record’s journey. Ritual Cloak has created this personal ensemble that so many can connect to for their own reasons, a track that embraces a vital memory that will provide a cathartic release for the musicians and the audience. This honest piece will grip you, you can either experience their emotions from the outside and simply press play, or you can find yourselves moving to the emotive arrangement and joining the journey. It’s a reflective piece beautifully delivered. Ritual Cloak have created this truly moving ensemble, delivered through another expansive far-reaching electronic creation. The immersive aura they’ve developed emits a trance-like state. Lyrically, Ritual Cloak captures that lonesome feeling when you experience loss, their words fused with the essential elements that they’ve used to build the track, this all mirrors that insular and isolated time and headspace. The words that soar through the dense atmosphere of addictive chimes and a persistent beat fused with the forcible clap motion, this in respect keeps the momentum up, just as time continues in the real world, the beat still drives the journey.
The album meanders with ease through this ever-changing ample structure of piercing tones, layered electronic elements, and a vast array of influences that lace the climatic explorations that piece the record together. Ritual Cloak merges electronic extremities with sudden serene slows. Throughout the album, Ritual Cloak showcases their profound attention to detail as they delicately build each arrangement from the ground up. The pair unite to ramp up the intensity of their instrumentations by bringing their forcible power to the forefront of their record. The musicians thrive amongst the experimental entity they craft.
Now, we are thrilled to hand over to the pair to find out in their own words, the making of this album…
We’ve been thrilled to share all the new music from Ritual Cloak and we would love to get to know more about you both. Could you let the readers know who you are and how Ritual Cloak came together?
We are Dan and Sanders. We met back in 2013 when one of our best mates Jemma Roper put an ad out on twitter for a guitarist to join her band.
Dan: I saw the ad and felt like trying out. Sanders was the drummer and we just hit it off instantly. It was great as throughout our songwriting/playing with Jemma we’d always lock into what each other was doing. When my old band Samoans ended I found myself just trying to write something a bit different for myself as a potential solo project. Sanders had always recorded our stuff with Jemma and done a great job of it too, so I naturally approached him to teach me how to use the studio equipment and give advice on mixing. He came down for a couple of sessions and it pretty much escalated from there to be a full-blown collaboration.
Where did the name of the outfit come from?
Dan: It’s going to sound super geeky but the name is taken from an episode of Star Trek called ‘The Paradise Syndrome’. Kirk gets stranded on a planet that appears to be inhabited by descendants of Native Americans. Kirk is revered as a god after saving a child’s life and given a ritual cloak. I wrote it down immediately. The two words really struck me in their simplicity. Thanks Star Trek!
How would you describe your own sound?
Dan: Initially, when starting Ritual Cloak, it felt like it was very much going in a post-rock direction, with On The Sea Of Grass being the first song we’d written and completed. But as I became more familiar with playing piano and with Sanders’ influence, it evolved into something a lot more experimental. We were both drawn to exploring the electronic route which we think has established itself fully in our sound. Our music can be quite chilled, quite dancy and in parts on the new album, quite heavy.
Sanders: Our sound feels very organic, even though a lot of what we make is put together with synthesis, we’re both very keen on keeping a human feel to our music.
We’d love to know how you approached writing new material for ‘Divine Invasions’..
The first album saw sparing use of guitar, instead mainly writing around piano. When it came to writing the second we didn’t want to fall into the same routine, choosing to embrace exploring new sounds, experiment with new effects, making guitars sound like synths and using vocals for the first time. The album began taking shape at our studio in Cardiff, but lockdown forced us to work separately, and in a very different way than before. At the beginning of lockdown we both made little production set ups at home. We just loved being able to dip in and out at any time of the day, as soon as an idea struck which has resulted in a collection of songs that would otherwise have not come together had we continued to work in our usual ways in the studio. It’s almost like we have a telepathic connection when it comes to writing. We just know exactly what each other’s parts should be or where a song should go.
You’ve managed to capture on the recording tracks this kinetic energy, is it fun to collaborate and play together?
Dan: When writing started, we’d work in the studio together and just come in with small ideas, never anything fully formed and just see where they took us on the day. That’s always been what makes Ritual Cloak so exciting for us, there are no expectations and that attitude of “there are no rules” really allows for our creativity to flourish. I think this definitely comes across in the music. We honestly have the best time making music together.
Sanders: We can be brutally honest with each other. If one of us doesn’t like an idea, we’re fine saying so. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it just pushes us to try harder and usually ends up with us creating something better. I know my production chops have developed in ways they wouldn’t have if I wasn’t collaborating with Dan on Ritual Cloak.
It feels like with some transitions within the instrumentation, you organically capture this emotional essence, as if you’ve foraged for snippets of life and reflected that through your tone and song structures, how would you describe your collective influences that flow through your style of music?
Dan: When recording we definitely bring our collective moods to the table. The session we recorded the vocals for White Noise was really emotional as our friend Chris was literally dying of cancer. The song transitions from being quite ambient to minimal techno as a nod to our early twenties when we’d come back from a night out and continue partying, listening to dance music until the early hours. In other songs like Conversation (Blackmail) you can hear things like the damper pedal on Dan’s upright piano at home creaking. The piano is not completely in tune but having heard Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score to Watchmen it inspired us to embrace the off-key notes.
Sanders: There are a few ‘accidental’ sounds, like doors closing and headphones being dropped that have been manipulated and turned into part of the music. It’s things like that that I feel makes our music organic.
Dan: Our collective influences are pretty wide-ranging too. We’re constantly sharing music and songs with each other that inspire us from Mogwai and Kiasmos to Radiohead and Sylvan Esso. We’re even working on a cover of a Manics song as we speak!
Working on your sophomore release, has your writing and recording process differed from the debut album, if so- how and why?
The writing and recording process kind of picked up where the first album left off really. Basically, the two of us booking time off work to spend an entire day or two in the studio working on ideas. It was working really well with around half the record written and recorded but there were a couple of songs like VALIS where we hit a wall and had to give space for a while. Then lockdown happened and we just didn’t know what was going to happen or even if we’d finish the album at all. But we talked things over, made a list of equipment we’d need to buy to keep working with the condition to not feel pressured to create. Lockdown could have really impacted our progress but, if anything, it made us really productive. We’ve already got plans for a couple more releases after Divine Invasions.
Was there a theme to this record, a concept you had that you needed to execute?
We wouldn’t say there was a particular concept to the album itself. There are songs that definitely centre around brilliant, obsessive people that have inspired us like Philip K Dick (VALIS) and Richey Edwards (Conversation (Blackmail) & I Accuse History). The album also deals with grief (White Noise) but it never felt like we had to base everything around one theme in order for the album to flow or make sense.
What does the final finished album mean to you and what do you feel the record captures?
Dan: Where the first album was centred around a certain fragility, Divine Invasions sounds like a more confident record. When listening back to songs like I Accuse History and High Teens Low Twenties, I’m really happy with how we’ve managed to create these completely different soundscapes and textures.
Sanders: I’m really proud of this album. The first record felt like a huge learning curve that came together over time. This album just sort of fell into place quite quickly, and I think a large part of that is due to how much Dan and I push each other to create and better ourselves as musicians.
Is there a track you’re just so proud of and can’t wait to play?
Dan: I’m really proud of the whole album but personally I think VALIS is my favourite. The words came easily for this song but it was difficult to settle on the music for a long while. It must’ve gone through about 4 different versions before recording. Whilst working on material at home I had been playing about with dreamy guitar chords and could hear a percussive bass riff repeating over and over. As the loops were built up, I began chanting the lyrics over the music. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Alice Coltrane and her use of chants accompanied by sonic synth sounds resonated with me. I think it’ll be a great one to play live, if anything for the amazing drum part Sanders plays towards the second half of the song.
Sanders: Playing live was never something we thought Ritual Cloak would do, certainly not with the first album, but after getting a little taste for performing live I think that bug trickled into how we approached writing the new album. I think a lot of these songs will be fun to play live, if we get the chance.
You’ve joined forces with Bubblewrap Collective for this album release, how did the collaboration come about and what do you love at Bubblewrap?
We’ve always loved Bubblewrap. Chitty has consistently put out great music and created a roster to be envious of. Chitty loved our first record and we thought why not send it to him and see if he’d be up for putting it out. We had nothing to lose. We were really chuffed when he said yes. He works really hard, gives great advice and super helpful with design direction. Our favourites on the label are probably Right Hand Left Hand and Sock (make another record guys!).
The album is due to be released on vinyl, Tell us why vinyl format you chose was right for you.
Dan: I’ve been obsessed with vinyl since I was a kid. My dad shared his vinyl collection with me so having access to music in that format has always felt extremely normal to me from a young age. A vinyl record feels like a tangible work of art and the moment the needle hits the wax is still magic to me. Releasing the album on vinyl makes it feel really special and shows off Snowskull’s incredible artwork. You can sit there and explore every detail.
Tell us about the artwork for ‘Divine Invasions’ how did that come about?
Snowskull concentrated on the Philip K Dick idea, how he was plagued by nervous breakdowns and driven to the brink of insanity by visions of God.
In the bottom right hand corner you see the protagonist (Phil-esque) staring into a mirror and his own reflection coming to terms with all the hallucinations of cherubs, angels and religious figures in front of him. Snowskull wanted to make the piece feel like a scrapbook with drawings and diagrams / ripped up pieces of paper and collages and to represent his “scrap-brain” on the edge of fragility! He wanted it to make up all the tiny thought patterns all fragmented and brittle on the verge of a beautiful collapse.
If you’re able to, will you be supporting this release live at any stage? If so how will you incorporate all your elements into one live performance?
We definitely plan on playing live as soon as we can. We’ve got a live band (made up of members from our other band Nyet Klub and False Hope For The Savage) that help us expand what we can do with the songs. We never really intended Ritual Cloak to ever play live but we thought if we never tried, we’d kick ourselves. It’s interesting applying electronic music principles to a band and seeing how it works. We’re currently planning a filmed live performance at some point this year along with some live shows but it all depends on restrictions easing around COVID. We’ve started looking at how we can also do live shows as a duo in addition to the live band.
And finally any last words?
Keep your eyes peeled for a couple of exciting collaborations throughout the year with photographer Michal Iwanowski and writer Darren J Coles (aka Autumn Juvenile).
Thank you so much and congratulations on the album release!