Cloudland Canyon: Lie in Light

Mary St John: Some Leaves Turned Red, Some Still Green
International Corporation

One could be forgiven for thinking that kranky's artists have been ingesting more than their usual share of mushrooms the past little while, given how spacey recent releases from White Rainbow (Prism of Eternal Now) and Lichens (Omns) have been. Though its title can't hold a candle to the recent Silver Tongued Sisyphus EP, Lie in Light may be the most phantasmagoric exercise in astral travel yet from Cloudland Canyon members Kip Uhlhorn and Simon Wojan. Abetted by the sonic contributions of viola and synth player Ezra Buchla (among others), Uhlhorn and Wojan create oceanic drones where instruments bleed into one another to create impenetrably dense and distorted masses (e.g., “Scheisse Schatzi, auf Wiedersehen!”); the vocals in “White Woman,” for example, are almost indecipherable when heard amidst a flesh-crawling drone of burning guitars and wailing saxophone. True to krautrock form, some tracks are propulsive (wah-wah guitars and “lie in light” chants crest over a prototypically driving pulse in “Krautwerk”) while others venture into psychedelic soundscape territory (the title piece resembles a hundred sputtering synthesizers imploding into a single, whooshing mass). There are some stylistic surprises along the way: strip away its thick cosmic blanket and “Heme” sounds a bit like the kind of pastoral German synth-pop one might have heard when Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk first appeared, and a pop heart likewise beats at the center of the jubilant closer “Mothlight Part 1.” It's also worth noting that Lie in Light is loud but not earache-inducing, and, at thirty-nine minutes, makes its case with admirable economy.

Equally extra-terrestrial is Mary St John's Some Leaves Turned Red, Some Still Green from the International Corporation imprint (which made a strong impression with the 2007 release of The Lickets' Journey in Caldecott). Comprised of Rachel Smith and Mitch Greer, Mary St John weaves ethereal tapestries of analog electronic haziness in fourteen settings that are generally more tranquil in spirit than Cloudland Canyon's time-travelers. Some Leaves Turned Red, Some Still Green might be likened to the bucolic experience of lying in a summer country field watching clouds roll by and soaking up the sounds of insects and birds while tripping out on time-suspending hallucinogens. Shimmering organ, spidery Moog melodies, and softly puttering drum machines lend “Vegetation Management Plan” a krautrock-lite feel while the harder-edged “Preprocessing and Recognition” plunges the listener into a full-blown cauldron where carousel melodies meet swelling bass rhythms. Colliding shards of electronics suggest a late-20th-century showdown between Xenakis and Stockhausen in “The Treatment is Done in Complete Darkness.” Pretty synth interludes (“Snow From Clouds”) and white noise cacophony (“Input Parameters”) cross swords with diseased spacewalks (“Permanent Autonomous Bases on the Moon”) and disheveled harpsichord jaunts (“Soil Surface Background”). Disturbed drones and echoing spaces resound throughout the fifty-five-minute collection which, incidentally, can be downloaded from the International Corporation web site for a price determined by the listener (a policy shared by all of the label's releases).

April 2008