From Aural Innovations #35 (January 2007)
Cloudland Canyon - "Requiems der Natur 2002-2004"
(Tee Pee Records 2006, TPE 069)
Every once in awhile an album comes along that just seems to defy categorization or comparison. Requiems der Nature 2002-2004 is just such an album. Begun by a chance meeting between former Red Scare guitarist Kip Uhlhorn and German musician Simon Wojan, the two of them have created something quite exquisite, something that touches the unknown.
Guitars, electronics, voices, percussion, organ, piano, glockenspiel and other instruments are used to create multiple layers of improvised sound that come across as sometimes lost songs you half remember, heard in a dream, like the fragile Carolina Foxtail to delirious sequencing passages like the quietly intense Coastal Breathe. There's the lovely, ambient folksy Field Ghosts, the shimmering pop from another dimension of Summer Cloth, and the pulsing drone beats of Holy Canyon (Vanquish). Everything is wrapped in a light, softly fuzzy blanket, filtered through pale curtains like warm morning sunlight. These are songs found forgotten in the back corners of cupboards in old cottages, mostly dusted off for playing again, songs heard through the hum of summer bees and seen through the golden haze of fresh honey.
It's the kind of music that somehow both challenges the mind and soothes the soul at the same time. A psychedelambient excursion that will get into corners of your mind you didn't even know existed. Highly recommended!
I had a chance to talk with Kip Uhlhorn via e-mail to gain a little more insight into the music of Cloudland Canyon. Here's what he had to say:
Aural Innovations (AI): So coming from two different continents, how did the two of you end up meeting and deciding to work together?
Kip Uhlhorn (KU): I was actually on tour as a roadie with some friends of mine in 2002 in Europe. Simon's band at the time was opening on the tour for them. Somehow Simon and I just sorta hit it off. Mainly just hanging out after the shows at night talking and playing each other stuff from minidisc recordings. Weirdly enough, I was the one going on and on at the time about German music
AI: What kind of bands/projects was Simon playing in before you and he got involved in Cloudland Canyon?
KU: Simon was and is in King Khan and his Shrines. He used to play in a more aggressive band called Metrophon.
AI: You come from a bit of a more punk and noise rock oriented background with bands like The Red Scare and Panthers. How has that influenced what you've brought to Cloudland Canyon?
KU: Well, when The Red Scare stopped playing we had started to reconcile rock music with tendencies or ideas that were more in line with Cloudland Canyon. There seems to be a pretty clear continuum between those two things, at least to me. Panthers was much less of a reflection of me personally. Basically, five people with very different ideas compromising heavily. In TRS as well as Cloudland I am playing music in the most natural, organic way I know how. Some sort of reverse scale alignment of discordance and beauty or pure tone.
AI: Cloudland Canyon is a very unique name. I know it's a real place in Georgia. Does this place hold some significance for you?
KU: Honestly, Simon and I were on a road trip through the south (which is where I'm from.) We drove through Cloudland Canyon; the name just kinda stuck. Pretty uninteresting.
AI: On your myspace site, you mention quite a few Krautrock bands as influences. What are some of your favorite artists/albums from that era, and how have they influenced your work on Requiems der Natur?
KU: Haha...yeah, our booking agent requested that we put up a myspace site prior to the record coming out so he could play songs for promoters. I guess we were just trying to make it easy for him to explain. As far as favorites; Gottsching's Inventions for Electric Guitar, Amon Duul II -Yeti, In Den Garten Pharoas - by Popol Vuh, UFO by Guru Guru. I really love Necronomicon but Simon always tells me that the lyrics make it unlistenable for him.
AI: What other kinds of musical passions/influences did you bring to the project?
KU: Both of us are really into the way spirituality informs music and art. Simon and I have talked alot especially about delta blues and gospel music. There is something so amazing about music that is only realized as an exorcism for a person or group of people. In the case of gospel music people were feeling such a fervor that it had to be released somehow. Music just happened to be on hand. Simon often argues that this is music at it's purest. Also, my wife and I recently visited Morocco. I saw Berber tribesmen playing Gnawa music for the first time in Marrakesh. It's really powerful to see these people work themselves up into a trance that can go on for hours. They also believe for the most part that playing for money undermines the purity of what they are doing. Therefore, public performance is rare and mainly based on spontaneous necessity.
AI: Judging by the title, this album took two years to record. Was the entire album recorded by sending stuff back and forth across the Atlantic, or did you get together in the studio as well to work on it? Tell me a bit about the process of creating the pieces on Requiems. Was a lot of it improvised, or would you say more composed in nature?
KU: Actually, the bulk of the material was created over 7-10 or so eight-hour days back to back in a rehearsal space in Brooklyn in 2002. Almost all of it was improvised. One of us would verbalize to the other a loose idea for a song and then pretty much, a few minutes after that we were going for it. Synergy was pretty intense after spending so long together. By the end things were really intuitive. We then kinda sent the tapes back and forth a few times, put them on the back burner a few times, let other people contribute a few times, etc. I think I did the final assembling/mixing in August of 2004. We finally agreed to let Tony at TeePee release it in November of 2005. Just took us forever.
AI: You had a few other collaborators besides the two of you on this album, didn't you? Who else participated and how were they involved?
KU: Simon and I are kinda always down to jam with like-minded friends. Jerry Fuchs and Jacob Morris are just people that we see eye to eye with and respect a great deal musically. Not to mention that they are great people. Kelly Winkler is just one of the most creative people I have ever met in general. This was actually her first recorded endeavor.
AI: You went on tour with the project in 2006, how did that go? How extensive was the tour? Are their any plans for further touring in the works?
KU: The tour was brief but amazing. Almost everyone we played with was interesting, and in most cases inspiring. We toured with Lichens, who shreds every night. Other highlights were Sir Richard Bishop, Acre, No Age, White Rainbow, Growing, Valet...I could go on for a while. We are actually getting ready to tour Europe briefly in April.
AI: When playing live, did you do a lot of the material from the album, or did you improvise new pieces on stage? Was it difficult re-creating the sound in a live setting?
KU: We actually didn't recreate any of it. I think we just want everything to constantly change, evolve, take different shapes, etc. However, we thought it would be sort of a copout to do pure improv. We decided we wanted to be in complete control at all times. This became one of the hardest things I have ever involved myself in. We had six days to get this together prior to tour having never played live before. This is not to say that there weren't elements of improv. However, it seems like too many people are playing "out there," music right now just because it seems easy. This self-imposed construct was an acknowledgement of the discipline required to do this well. Regardless, this manifested itself in one long piece with several movements.
AI: So what lies down the road for Cloudland Canyon?
KU: Man..... New LP is getting recorded in April in Germany, collaboration we recorded with Lichens should be out at some point, a German 12" EP should be out soon, just released a limited edition cassette in Germany, 3 or 4 other splits or collaborations coming up two of which are completed but not out yet.
AI: Sounds awesome, Kip! Looking forward to hearing all of it. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!