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Published: 2006/06/22
by Jesse Jarnow

Requiems Der Natur 2002-2004 Cloudland Canyon

Tee Pee Records 069

Sometime after the Beatles solidified the whole recording-studio-as-instrument trip, further generations of musicians began using the new instrument for quick sessions — the technological equivalent of jazz. With laptop ProTools, etc., set-ups now almost (if not more) ubiquitous than acoustic guitars in the hands of young creative types, the notion of the album itself as a one-off, in-the-extended-moment object has grown exceedingly popular. Cloudland Canyon, the brainchild of Panthers’ guitarist Kip Uhlhorn and German multi-instrumentalist Simon Wojan, is the latest.

Requiems Der Natur 2002-2004, their somewhat pretentiously titled debut, is as weird as it sounds, a 42-minute construction of surprising noise, drones, and field recordings. Considered as a piece of enduring music, it is probably too bizarre, but thought of as a spontaneous result of two men’s creativity that couldn’t have happened under any other circumstances, it is deeply fun. Without a band or song structures to speak of, Cloudland Canyon’s instrumentation changes from track to track, a cascade of jitteringly sampled strings ("Coastal Breathe") here, a wash of deep burbling and crying gulls ("Secondary Chanting") there.

But even amid the chaos, Requiems contains a core unity. If anything, there is a certain type to the sound they unleash that is hard to put one’s finger on, but works to at least make Requiems play like an album. Throughout, such as on the organ hum/acoustic guitar duet "Field Ghosts" and the vibrating machinations of the album-concluding "BrightBeijing," it is as if all of the songs have been layered with a shared white noise, like an analog crackle or a gaggle of chattering voices mixed subliminally into the music. Even when the two dabble with vocals, as on "Summer Cloth," there is still a pervasive ambience to the music.

As a pure listening experience, Requiems is essentially a sound collage. To borrow language from the psychedelic pswamis of yore, it is a recording that works best with the proper set and setting — that is, the appropriate mindset and surroundings. Less abrasive than their fellow Brooklynites in the Animal Collective, Cloudland Canyon carves out a similarly dark psychoactive niche. In the dark, on headphones, or in whatever space one chooses, Requiems Der Natur will claim the air for their own, the stars visible above the canyon walls, the darkness below breathing with life.

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