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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Cloudland Canyon
Requiems der Natur 2002-2004
Tee Pee Records

Rating: 8.3/10 ?


June 12, 2006
Kip Uhlhorn has a history of sonic violence, going back to his days with screamo denizens The Red Scare. Most recently, Uhlhorn's scariest assaults have come as a guitarist with Panthers, the Brooklyn noise-mongers and high-minded political agitators whose boiling, yet somehow danceable, Jesus Lizard-style punk is as vicious as a pitbull attack. Working with German multi-instrumentalist Simon Wojan in Cloudland Canyon, Uhlhorn's latest project, he sounds completely rehabilitated and ready to rejoin acceptable society. It's as if he's undergone some kind of musical Ludovico technique, but unlike Alex in Clockwork Orange, Uhlhorn hasn't been lobotomized to the point where he's lost all his subversive urges.

Requiems Der Natur 2002-2004 is the debut album from Cloudland Canyon and it's a religious experience in and of itself. Uhlhorn, with Wojan's help, opens himself up to the heady electronic experimentalism of Krautrock heroes Can and Faust and becomes reborn, having immersed himself in wonderfully eclectic, surreal compositions that stray far from indie-rock convention and defy structure or logic. A warm, fuzzy analog blanket covers Requiems Der Natur 2002-2004 as Uhlhorn and Wojan deconstruct the architecture of the Sonic Youth classic Daydream Nation, diffusing the album's anarchic guitar tornadoes into amorphous organ movements, meditative chants, glowing electric keyboards and huge, expiring synthesizers.

Freed from the somewhat loose constraints of Panthers, Uhlhorn explores a variety of guitar styles, from the darkly prismatic thrum of "Carolina Foxtail/Sea Chirp" to the dizzying Appalachian fingerpicking of "Field Ghosts" to the ghostly, barely audible strumming of "Joyful Noise." But the guitar is just a bit player in this drama, fading in and out of earshot like a long-dead relative trying to make contact from the Great Beyond. In this production, the expansive backdrops and electronic thickets Uhlhorn and Wojan design almost overwhelm the action of the play, but the scenery is utterly captivating, full of man-made wonders and odd interludes, like the cuckoo-clock-factory-gone-mad freakout of "Joyful Noise." Such quirky passages transition into even stranger musical territory, like the angry cauldron of bird noises and unsettling electronic bubbling of "Secondary Chanting." That's just a warm-up for the buzzing beehive of sound that suddenly comes to life after a droney intro in the closer, "BrightBeijing."

The culmination of three years of studio labor, Requiems Der Natur 2002-2004 is a completely unexpected, almost spiritual, departure for Uhlhorn. Gone, at least for the moment, is the high-wire tension of the Panthers' caustic rawk. Also missing are the socio-political abstractions and convoluted lyrics the Panthers spit out in spiteful gobs at an audience largely ignorant of whatever message Panthers are trying to get across. Turning inward with Wojan, and tuning out the static of modern political discourse and debased cultural idioms, Uhlhorn finds a calming, more organic creative environment to work in.

"Opening/Ice Of Rift' is a New Age Indian raga that emerges from gurgling electronica, shaking walls of chimes, moaned incantations, pinging guitar and an unobtrusive keyboard melody that just circles about waiting for clearance to land. Against a monolithic, melting backdrop of shape-shifting synthesizers - think M83 on acid - Uhlhorn and Wojan bang glassy vibe tones in "Clearlight Intry," weaving loops of indistinct muttering in and out of the metallic scenery to stunning effect. Working against deafening, distorted organ swells that wax and wane at the beginning of the nine-minute epic "Carolina Foxtail/Sea Chirp" is another of Cloudland Canyon's deceptively simple keyboard melodies, and the fact that it's heard at all through the bramble of electronic noise makes you take notice. But there it is, coming through with quiet strength and clear resolution, before giving way to steely percussion, kazoo sounds and light, supersonic guitar riffing.

Here is what makes Cloudland Canyon such an exciting collaboration. Each part in every seam-busting track, no matter how little or insignificant, has merit to Uhlhorn and Wojan, and these minor apparitions will reveal their presence at some point because the pair won't let them be ignored. And when they do, they'll seem as important to the whole work as the more immediate drawing cards of Requiems Der Natur 2002-2004, giving the record a multi-layered quality that ensures fresh opportunities for discovery among those listening for such things.

Capable of forming amazing harmonic convergences, Cloudland Canyon has massive, infinite ambitions. This is not merely a record; it is an exhibition of art - each piece more daring than the last - only the canvasses aren't vast enough to contain all the musical ideas they have. They simply run off the material and keep going, searching for something blank and colorless to spread to. Cloudland Canyon needs a cathedral ceiling or the side of a three-story building to paint epics like "Holy Canyon (Vanquish)," with its NASA-powered plumes of breathy synthesizer, its pizzicato strings and a woozy melangé of lazy horns that coalesces into a powerful current of sound. Admit it. You didn't think Uhlhorn or Wojan had this in them. Their third-grade music teachers didn't. Their dads didn't. Nobody did. And whatever you've thought of either of them in the past, you're going to think differently of them now.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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