Cloudland Canyon are not content with just one sound. You’ll find their name plastered on vanishingly rare cassette releases where they wallow in half-hour drones of muddy sine-wave ambience like a scratched Tangerine Dream vinyl. In 2008, the band attempted a more digestible release with Lie In Light, where ambient pieces clocked in at more reasonable durations, electronics were hushed, and slabs of guitar noise reached the foreground. While this transition may sound like an intriguing step, it instead found the band in the mires of plagiarism, particularly with “Krautwerk,” the group’s tongue-in-cheek nod to Krautrock.
Fortunately for the band, it’s easier to put the past behind them than most. Cloudland Canyon have a rotating cast, with the only constant members being Kip Uhlhorn (Panthers) and Simon Wojan (King Khan and The Shrines). While this may hold them back from developing a completely definitive sound, it’s also a blessing because it allows them to easily loosen the shackles of Lie In Light and produce an album as stunning as Fin Eaves.
Indeed, this time around, Cloudland Canyon have stopped hitching a ride on the old 70s Germanic bandwagon and have created something much more singular. The undulating swamps of electronics have risen in the mix, featured as the backdrop to a glowing wall of shoegaze echo. Drum machines have been usurped by sun-bleached sleigh bells and a reverberated snare, while the vocals are like faded, bass-heavy whale song with indiscernible snippets of lyrics.
While Cloudland Canyon’s outrageously liberal use of echo might repel some listeners, burying their melodies makes for a far more enticing listen than if they were crystal clear. Perhaps the album centerpiece (and recently released 7-inch) “Mothlight (Part 2)” exemplifies this best, where a warbling, faltering synth line weaves vaguely around a razor-sharp guitar riff, as the vocals carry like they’re sung in an aircraft hangar, all serene and luminous. This precedes album highlight “Yellow Echoes,” an equally joyous song on its face, but featuring a subtle poignancy heard in the chord progression that only reinforces itself with each listen.
Sure, with Cloudland Canyon stringently adhering to their newfound formula and retaining a similar pace throughout, Fin Eaves doesn’t lend itself to any startles or immediately striking moments. But their renewed approach allows for the full realization of the album’s flavor: grandiose, ambitious, and almost painfully beautiful. The age old aphorism that 12 delay pedals are always better than one still prevails.