Cloudland Canyon Silver Tongued Sisyphus [EP]

[Kranky; 2007]

Styles: krautrock, prog-ambient
Others: Harmonia, Can, Neu

It's too easy to dismiss Cloudland Canyon's Silver Tongued Sisyphus
as a derivative, masturbatory affair. True, it flaunts its influences
prominently and enthusiastically, but the forgiving critical listener
will accept the challenge of looking beyond them. I, for instance, was
thoroughly ready to fist this record a new one and pen the verbal
equivalent of that unfortunate 10-minute scene out of Irreversible. But during my most recent listening session, it finally revealed to me a glimmer of beauty, and I found myself engaged in a stormy affair with the record.

Compositionally, Kosmische Musik brashly colors and washes across each track. Harmonia, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can, Amon Duul, Neu, Klaus Schulze -- each receives a pronounced nod on this EP. While trainspotting these influences can overwhelm you, shades of something more elusive save the record from being a full-fledged pastiche; at their best, Cloudland Canyon perform slight variations on a primary theme and embark on a quest for an individual, distinct sound.

The opening half of "Dambala," for example, is grafted together by a series of motifs that each owe as much to the '80s ambient noise experimentations of Zoviet France and Nocturnal Emissions (I'm thinking of the latter's neo-Tantric period) as to aesthetic of the kraut-gang. The title track, on the other hand, is motorik to the teeth, but it defies the parameters of that sound by adding a shade of space rock to the shuffle and flirting with minimalism.

There is something I find slyly inviting about Silver Tongued Sisyphus, something more alluring than its direct quotations of other artists. Perhaps I'm just experiencing fuzzy sweater syndrome after granting the album a stay of critical execution. Or maybe my familiarity with the music has rendered it comforting, safe, and ultimately welcoming. I want to believe, though, that I felt an independent voice developing in the soundwaves that attracted me, that Cloudland Canyon are seeking to elevate their work above simple homage and build to a career climax that will leave us all stunned in its wake. For now, we can only take this record at face value and wait for the future to show us how much this leap of faith is worth.

1. Dambala
2. Silver Tongued Sisyphus

Most Read