Cloudland Canyon - Silver Tongued Sisyphus
(Kranky) Keith Boyd 11.28.07
When I was a kid everyone always talked about the things they could see in nature. We’d lay on our backs in my front yard and with hands tucked behind heads stare out at clouds shouting things like, “Hey! That one’s a frog riding a motorcycle!” or, “Wow, look at that winged horse!” Our observations weren’t limited to clouds however. There were ancient and evil faces to be found in tree trunks, heroic and sprightly figures to be seen in water stains on rocks and even weird cartoony animals lurking in the whirls and swirls of old sidewalks. Growing up when I did (Yeah! The 70’s!) meant that you spent most of your time outside. I remember summer days that started when your bike tire hit the blacktop in the morning and didn’t end until the sun was going down. Who knows what has changed but we’ve gone from childhood being a nearly autonomous (and certainly anarchic) experience to adult mediated “Play Dates”. Once upon a time it was every nine year olds God given right to torment crayfish, cadge money for Slurpies and roam the landscape as though it were your own. The benefits of this are hard to calculate. I think it was the trial and error methodology that was our best teacher. We’d set up old paint cans full of water into pyramids, drag a piece of plywood and bricks into the street to make a ramp and proceed to kill ourselves for hours until we got the perfect alignment of ramp angle, pyramid height and bike speed to become mini-Evel Kenevels.
And so it was that one cool December evening I was lying on my back in the grass watching my Dad string up the Christmas lights. As I sat there a beautiful full moon slowly crept up into the sky and seemed to hover just out of reach. As I looked at it I tried in vain to see the legendary “Man”. Was it a lopsided, leering expression? Was it a big balloon headed face wearing Gene Simmons Kiss makeup? I just couldn’t see a face whatsoever. As I continued to stare though, an image did seem to resolve itself out of the abstract. It looked like a man in flowing robes, holding a steering wheel with long hair trailing behind him. The moon itself was some sort of bubble car and this guy was driving it. Given my somewhat limited experience with Hippies and the like I labeled the guy “Jesus”. The full moon would from that point on until today always be this to me; Jesus driving inside a bubble. As I said before this image appeared to me on a coolish December night and so that tranquil, inky blue atmosphere is wrapped up with this image. Whenever I see the moon I see that image, feel that cool air and hear a sound which I can only describe as silvery-blue forever. Hey I know that’s not much help in understanding really but that was how the thing came at me. The great part is I’ve heard that sound since then. It has mostly tended to creep up in German “Kraut-Rock” bands. I’ve heard it in Can’s, “Future Days”. I’ve heard it in Neu!’s, “Fur Immer” and even on Kraftwerk’s, “Strom”. Whenever I hear that sound I swoon. It’s a hard thing to put your finger on but the essential element is that it feels as though it started before you got there and could continue on long after you’ve left. Naturally I find this tone and sound to be utterly entrancing and I’m here to tell you it’s in abundance on the new Cloudland Canyon CD, “Silver Tongued Sisyphus”.
Cloudland Canyon is composed of two members; guitarist Kip Ulhorn of hipster Brooklyn band Panthers and German multi-instrumentalist Simon Wojan. Last year they put out the massively freaky, “Requiem de Natur” and it was a stunner. While that disc was jarring, beautiful and chaotic this EP has a softer, more hypnotic pulse. The saddest part of this CD is that it’s so short. It’s only two songs (admittedly they both clock in somewhere around the 12 minute mark) and that’s just long enough to whet your appetite for more.
The first track, “Dambala” starts as a heady landscape, all rough edges and dark patches. As it progresses it gives way to a perfect synth rhythm, different loops all going in and out of the mix, locking and unlocking the music. The shifting and pulsating nature of the song makes it feel alive. It is like a giant superorganism: each component of the song being drones (think insects as opposed to say La Monte Young) working in sync for the good of the music. The title track is similarly multifaceted, starting off seamlessly where the sedate "Dambala" leaves off. However, there is a startling change of pace as the drums kick in with a powerful rhythm with a strong bass foundation. The guitar conjures up an ethereal wash around this iron backbone. The icing on the cake are the vocals which are in German and so, while I’m not sure what’s being said, they sound like they mean business.
Silver Tongued Sisyphus is a great, engaging exercise in tonality and dynamics. Cloudland keeps it reined in here for the most part and the result is a beautiful and diverse piece of art. Put this on and celebrate the freaky side of life. Pay homage to the fungal and subterranean. Let your dream glide boldly forth with wild anarchy colors. Close your eyes and clearly see Jesus driving the bubble moon across the dome of a mythic night sky.