Wild Mercury Sound

Harmonia, Cloudland Canyon, plus another Sly Stone triumph/farrago

John Mulvey

Some good neu-Krautrock this morning, coming from an American/German duo called, evocatively, Cloudland Canyon. I first came across them last year, I think, with an album called "Requiems der Natur 2002-2004" which fitted in with the ambient-cosmic end of the new psych stuff I listen to a lot.

There's a new EP, now, called "Silver Tongued Sisyphus", which features two tracks of gravitational, smudged motorik, more propulsive than what I remember of the album, and consequently fairly heavily indebted to Neu!, as you might imagine. It's pretty heavy, too; most of the people who claim to be influenced by Neu! at the moment turn out to be straight-sounding indie-boy shoegazers with a half-decent drummer.

Cloudland Canyon, though, sound appealingly further out, with "Dambala" especially pulling off that trick of being at once exploratory and meditative that you find in some of the best vintage German gear.

Which brings us to a new Harmonia release, amazingly. There's been some assiduous foraging of the Krautrock archives these past few years, that's fetched up the "Harmonia 76" sessions with Eno already. This one, "Live 1974", is a gig recording that appears to capture Rother, Moebius and Roedelius jamming with that typical impassive euphoria to an entirely empty room.

In fact, Michael Rother claims in the press release that the show (in a former railway station in Griessem) was attended by a good 50 or so people, who were too stoned to even applaud, or who couldn't work out where the songs ended. That makes sense: the five lengthy tracks here stretch out to between nine and 17 minutes each, but have an enveloping momentum that makes them feel like they are - or at least should - go on forever.

I must admit I haven't played the two studio Harmonia albums for a year or two, but from memory "Live 1974" is more in the vein of the first one, "Musik Von Harmonia". If you're familiar with the work of Harmonia's constituent bands, Neu! and Cluster, but not Harmonia themselves, imagine the humming seascape pieces from "Neu! 75" augmented by the gently chattering rhythm patterns of Cluster's "Zuckerzeit".

Perhaps Cluster are fractionally more dominant; Rother's always subtle guitar strafe is, if anything, more discreet than ever, though he does have a mild freak-out on "Arabesque". Anyway, it all makes a very soothing start to the week.

Couple more things today. Here's the Myspace link for Cloudland Canyon. And here are some contrasting views about Sly Stone's Bournemouth show from over at the Uncut Festivals blog. "Easily, the worst 'performance' I've ever seen by anyone," writes Paul. "It will take a while for the mental scars to heal and I can play his music again without this farce flooding back." Blimey.


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