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Cloudland Canyon - Lie In Light

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Artist: Cloudland Canyon

Album: Lie In Light

Label: Kranky

Review date: May. 23, 2008

Cloudland Canyon may have emerged from spliced home recordings and trans-Atlantic tape exchange, but six year's worth of collaboration has given the duo's sound plenty of time to solidify. Kip Uhlhorn and Simon Wojan have been at it since 2002, when Wojan made a trek to Brooklyn from his home country of Germany, having first met Uhlhorn earlier in the year while the latter was on a tour of Europe. They took a couple days in NYC to lay numerous tracks to tape, subsequently editing and overdubbing the sessions for the next two years. The end result was their exhilarating debut, Requiems Der Natur 2002-2004, which emerged as a refreshing experiment for the two, exploring new territories without any set parameters of what their "sound" would, or should, be.

Requiems was all over the map, engaging in its mystical effortlessness and fanciful concoctions, but held together by odd transitions and melting pot aesthetics. It did seem to evoke the respective locales of the two musicians, containing a heavy nod to Krautrock luminaries like Cluster and Ash Ra Temple while getting heavily processed through the multi-genre mish-mash of Brooklyn contemporaries like Animal Collective and Black Dice, woven in among the blurry synthesizers and tampered tape cuts. Though a bit haphazard and rough around the edges, Requiems was the sound of two musicians branching out and building their long list of influences with cosmic intent, constrained only by the technological boundaries that prevented them from liftoff.

While no less innovative than their predecessor, the group's 2007 releases seemed to ground their sound more in minimal electronic pulse and interstellar transmissions than the structurally nebulous context of Requiems. Their two-track EP on Meu Dia De Morte, Silver-Tongued Sisyphus, provided the most evidence of the group's evolution – especially on the title track, where staccato rhythms squirmed beneath German lyrics, maintaining a steady intensity throughout. The emphasis on modernized '70s prog bled heavily into the group's latest full-length, Lie in Light, which found a fitting release on Kranky Records after the label reissued the Sisyphus EP after the original 96 copies ran out.

The album's opening track, "Krautwerk," says it all, a wink that lies uncomfortably between self-deprecation and homage. That’s not to say the song isn't effective; Wojan and Uhlhorn surpass the typical stereotype for Kosmische Musik with a modern twist, dripping with synth textures and warped psychedelia. The record proceeds in a much more focused way than their debut, showcasing plotted song structures that take their time to develop, but not to the point of extreme. It's definitely obvious that the boys spent a good deal of time in the studio crafting the dense compositions, placing a heavy emphasis on songwriting and incorporating a 50/50 split of lyrics sung in German and English. The Krautrock vibe sticks around for the remainder of the record, but the two elaborate on the influence enough to excuse the heavy-handed allusions.

While it's great to see the band honing their approach and exploring the possibilities of the studio, I'm still drawn more to the starry-eyed naivety of their first record, when they were still testing the boundaries of their collaboration instead of nailing down a particular sound. It's tough to fault a band for tightening up their overall approach, but in Cloudland's case, the increased focus seems to detract from the open-air charm they possessed at the start.

By Cole Goins

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Requiems Der Natur, 2002-2004

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