Press releases indicating that new music from long-admired Cloudland Canyon had been trickling in over the last few months. Having already been a devoted fan of the purposefully vague and mysterious output from this creative force since the mid-2000's, each new single release added to the excitement. Now the full-length album is here, and for this reviewer it brings back all the memories and reasons for that initial fascination. Led by former New York and now Memphis based electronic music master Kip Uhlhorn, the artist has tapped into the mutual admiration of Spaceman 3/Spectrum's Sonic Boom (Pete Kember) for production assistance. The result is a magnificent collection of otherworldly music tuned into those dreamlike states some of us experience with each night's sleep.
Opening track “Circuit City” bursts out in full motion with no buildup, careening along at a bustling pace. Familiar deeply reverberated male vocals commence over (or is that under) a repeating AI voice pattern that sounds like the word “my, my, my” in perpetuity. There's a distinct pop chord progression at play, complete with a chorus (even if the lyrics buried beyond recognition). While the title line can be made out occasionally, that's hardly the point. Many wonderful sonic elements emerged throughout this over 6 minute opus. The percussion is busy, with bongo-like textures fluttering up (and then away). A driving synth-bass takes a dominant position at the 4 minute mark, with the previously bubbling sonics fading back. That sets the stage for a “battle of robotic sounds” (of sorts) to follow.
Follow-up cut “Internet Dreams” wraps itself in a dance-floor ready krautrock beat that pulls elements from both German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. Vocals come delivered with primary force from a strong female voice. “Losing time – barely there. Lose myself – light as air” are her opening lines. The hook comes in the form of a “Oh, Oh-A” vocal resolution at the end of each line delivered. “If I felt your touch – I might break apart” she initially concludes. Reading the artists statement that this song deals with something “you've already lost” and “our tendency to romanticize the past,” play out with the lyrics “old dreams light up my screen.” The suggestion that these “in tattered dreams” may be more “destructive” that we initially realized are summed in the the final repeated vocal hook “since you went away.”
“Future Perfect (Bad Decision)” taps into the dreamlike state and relaxed ambient pastel groove that initially caught the attention of this reviewer on their previous releases. Even though the rhythm is clearly defined with strong percussion, there's something about those vague and heavily reverberated vocals that instantly satisfy. Perhaps it's the dream pop and “gazey” music of initial practitioners like The Jesus and Mary Chain (and later on The Raveonettes) that has forged a connection with this sound. Something about the shifting voices that are just out of reach (like in a dream) find an emotional touchstone. The melody is romantic and builds slowly, creating the sensation that some kind of angelic experience is just over the horizon.
“SEA TACT / Whispering Waves” opens with a pulsating drone that continues while aggressive drumming thunders up from underneath in the mix. A variety of sound patterns begin to appear, some melodic and others adding to the hustling chaos. The halfway point introduces an elongated background vocal counterpoint to this otherwise hyperspeed sensation. Those vocals evolve into a more semi-coherent chanting phrase that sounds like “you don't say it's alright.”
There's a distinctive (once again) Jesus and Mary Chain feel on the slow, rambling two-chord appeal of “Recursive Excursions.” Choosing an undistorted guitar tone (like much of JAMC's 2nd studio album “Darklands”) sawing easily between chords, rattling tambourine and backing synth pads join in. Vocal delivery comes on soft and casually harmonized “we're not disappointed – just look where we've been.” Continuing in the aforementioned Reid brothers style, harsher electric guitar chords commence. From this point on, the actual Velvet Underground inspired source is more clearly revealed.
Another focus track “Two Point Zero” takes the quicker paced dance-floor electronica of earlier offerings and combines that with the preceding JAMC style vocals. A deep twang tone serves as a sonic balance point within shifting cacophony. With all that intentional aural chaos, a vocal hook “I don't want anyone but you” is purely evident. Plucking synths are pared with just enough percussion to generate the necessary forward motion. A timeless 80's through 90's feel abounds throughout, as if everything Depeche Mode, Howard Jones and other synth-pop pioneers of that ilk were put in a blender and poured out into this song.
Reaching deeper tracks, “LV MCHNS” combines buzzing brass synths, mechanized rhythms and icy female vocals that taps into the realm inhabited by bands like Ladytron. “Spacebar Blues” comes off as a less calculated studio jam, based around Kip's guitar and voice working out this “blues” progression idea over a ticking drum beat. Additional sound layers added on give it a fuller off-kilter appeal. Final entry “Gimme Tension” returns with full force everything that makes Cloudland Canyon so engaging. Swirling synths – check; forward charging percussion – check; anthemic dreamgaze vocals layered and distorted beyond recognition – double-check! Like most everything on this entire album – it's music to fall in love with someone - in an alternate AI universe.
Acquire this album at their label Medical Records HERE
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Every now and then you get a message from a contact on Social Media that you haven't really interacted with. Such is the case with an Italian musician who puts out recordings under the name I'm The Villain. His latest release is a personal tribute cover of the song “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains.
Starting the track off with an acoustic guitar and 808 drum machine, an introspective, homespun feeling is the initial vibe. Getting right to the vocals, you can hear passion within his lyrical delivery. He's got Layne Staley's vocal inflections down, as he retells about “misprinted lies,” “the path of time,” and how “I fight this battle all alone.” Soon a series of slinky, echoed telecaster guitar riffs enter the mix adding depth and texture overall. Reaching the second verse and the desolate lines “my gift of self is raped” adds on to the guitar layering creating a near metal-slide feel amid the echo. While the acoustic strums throughout, those wirey guitar figures weave around with determined anguish. Building to an emotional sonic peak, the percussion, guitars and synths come together in a cacophony of sound. A single high-pitched guitar figure continues to rise, leading out the the ultimate conclusion of the strumming acoustic.
Check it out:
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A recent release from our friends over at Shoredive Records find label boss Nicolas Pierre Wardell (a/k/a Nico Beatastic) reissuing his 2015 BEATASTIC EP number 2 in newly remastered form. As the record was originally the second in a series of four, it's title goes by the numerically accurate 02 2002 02020 2 (Remastered). A careful listen inspires ideas, thoughts and words below.
Epic opening track “Butterflies” clocks in a nearly 10 minutes in length. As one might expect, there's a lot going on in that timeframe. Buzzy brass synths kick it all with quick rhythm, panning back and forth the sound field. Other synths begin to wade in, creating a more drone-like effect. As Kraftwerk-ian percussion clips and hisses, a distinct bass guitar pattern emerges creating movement underneath. Gazey guitars begin strumming busily and the thump and crack of drumlike percussion enters the fray. At the 3:20 mark a momentary halt and held ambience serves to set up oncoming vocals. Delivered in elongated diction, it's more like a mantra, before something approximating a chorus emerges. That's followed by some hard-edged (and ear pleasing) bass guitar riffing. Halfway in and the drums, drone and vocals run through that melodic chorus once more. At six minutes the track breaks down to a synth only segment that reprises the songs intro. Backward looping over top always gives this reviewer a Jimi Hendrix-in-the-studio sensation (since that's where it was first heard) or perhaps even Beatles “White Album” vibe. Vocals float in and out with “ohhh ohhhh ahhhh” placement showing keen awareness of what a studio recording can accomplish. Pushing forward into the final 2 minutes, all the previous sonic elements return in full force for the grand finale.
Following cut “The Ebb And Flow” comes on with high-pitched synth pulses, before solid drumming and vocals join in with a full progression. Fast strummed “gazer” chords are positioned over top of it all, along with harmonized melodic vocals. A shearing guitar and drums instrumental breakdown adds powerful juncture to the final vocal conclusion. “Perfect Moment Perfect” emerges out of an ambient mist, before high-hat and snare percussion enter in. Vocals come on initially softer and introspective – as single line guitar figures weave around. As the synth pads rise and fall back, percussion stands out in front of the mix – as muted voices sing about taking a “moment” and “make it perfect.” More guitar lines step forward in a dominant way, as the song moves to it's conclusion.
After an ominous deep-buzzy synth intro, “Try Harder” quickly shifts gears as it bounces along bright strumming guitar and a solid drum pattern. Vocals come on in a softer, undistorted way, providing contrast to the bold rhythmic undercurrent. A Cure-like bass guitar and drum break provides thunderous reprieve before vocals return with the song's repeated title-line. “Stop Crossing Oceans” takes that bass guitar driven, matched with higher note six string guitar pairing and rolls it out in classic (once again) The Cure-style slow-build progression. Distinct forceful drumming joins in and the lyrical story commences. The dynamic chorus leans into gazey guitars (not really Robert Smith's thing) moving everything over to a more modern dreampop vibe. The song “ends” (then it doesn't) as a two minute coda floats everything away with textured guitar finesse.
The previously unreleased “Winter Bliss” emerges out of rising muted percussion before full-blown gazey guitar shear over top. The track then alternates between quiet verse passages of intimate nature (repeating the word “birthday”) and the shearing guitar enhanced chorus that goes “embrace me with a kiss – feeling the winter bliss.” Final cut “The Ebb And Flow (Country Version)” replaces the original's “fast strummed gazer chords” with down-home pedal-steel variations. Bass guitar and drums fall into an easy slow groove as the vocals are given an appropriately fresh reading as well. Country banjo pickin' can be heard within the mix, behind fiddles and those haunting pedal-steel strains.
Listen to and find out the multiple ways to acquire this album here:
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