A riddle for our times: When exactly did it become “bad” or “cause for dismissal” when a band releases a record that explores a style disparate from what preceded it?
Coming out of the gate in the early part of this decade as an all-things-not-Panthers outlet for Kip Uhlhorn, that band’s guitarist (and former guitarist/vocalist for those legends of deregulated late-90’s hardcore, Red Scare), for swapping musical ideas with a German named Simon Wojan (of King Khan and his Shrines), Cloudland Canyon spent several years immersed in an enigmatic interpretation of the many things these two minds found fascinating, including but not limited to the more structurally-challenged (therefore specialized) examples of OG Krautrock, 70’s (not really 60’s) psych of the drone-discovering variety, spots of unnerving (in a good way) improv here and there, and the wonderful 90’s bands that started out as head-scratchers and ended up as innovators (first-wave Siltbreeze and Kranky highlights).
Kip issued a parting wave to Panthers, an LP/CD was released on Tee Pee in 2006, and it was titled “Requiems der Natur.” Then a succession of EP’s and splits most of which have been released by Holy Mountain since 2007. Then, in 2007 Cloudland popped up on Kranky Records (Deerhunter, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Growing etc.)
Kranky was a good fit for the final sounds of Cloudland Phase I, issuing the EP “Silver-Tongued Sysiphus,” two lengthy tracks of all that stuff mentioned up there…and more. The second proper full length named “Lie in Light,” found Kip and Simon creating an album of Cloudland’s most succinct compositions to date, there’s even some drone-pop with an emphasis on the “pop” part of that stupid term. They kicked it off with a track spoofing the Krautrock influence that most music writers’ used as a review hook, or simply overstated and misunderstood. They titled it “Krautwerk” for fucks sake.
To initiate Cloudland Canyon Phase II, the inaugural album (but third full-length overall) revisits the “actual-band” treatment, but mostly in theory. Joined once again by Kelly and what is more-or-less a rotating cast (when needed), Kip has made an album that is immediately recognizable by a unique take on really, really goddamned loud and noisy. But if that was it…why would we be here? The most important quality – one hinted at on Lie in Light – is big, unavoidable pop hooks clawing their way out of a pulsating, throbbing thickness of guitar, bass, who-knows-what-type-of-effects, and understated but omnipresent drumming. Imagine, if you will, a Flying Saucer Attack foundation and a level of noise on par with the first two Iran albums, or maybe even Jesu every now and then. Then imagine flowing vocals-as-another-instrument providing one of the major pop-hook components for each song, mixed at a level that couldn’t be more perfect in this era of vocals getting mixed right up front and in your face.
The opening track, No One else Around, is almost disorienting with its swirling hurt-so-good seasickness of prickly, ruling noise, then the wildly-effected vocals ease the pleasurable pain without effort. Mothlight is the song that the entire Siltbreeze discography has been working towards for four-hundred years.
Put simply, the influences are there, but they are great influences, and to shun influence is to walk a dishonest walk. Cloudland Canyon have reached a new creative level with their own sound that demonstrates a care and craft that won’t be going away anytime soon. Fin Eaveswill be released on Holy Mountain records September 7th.
Cloudland Canyon has previously toured with Lichens, Singer, Earthless, No Age, White Rainbow, Valet and on and on. The band will embark on an extensive US tour this Summer.