Cloudland Canyon by Cloudland CanyonRelease date: July 21, 2023
Label: Medical Records
Artists are often quick to have a play with shiny new tricks and devices, drawn to toys with which to mess around and twist to their own imaginative ends. Consequently, this was bound to happen sooner rather than later, and Cloudland Canyon are presenting an album that has used AI as a generative tool to help compose the songs.
I’m not sure I want to go full dive into that larger debate here (primarily because I am aware I do not know enough about it all), but it is worrisome that this is becoming embedded in every part of our lives quite so quickly. My mind turns immediately to the internet quip about humans doing menial labour at minimum wage whilst the machines are making art: that was not the plan.
So, let’s concentrate purely on the music we are presented with on Cloudland Canyon. Like the rest of their back catalogue, the emphasis is on light, dreamlike vocals surrounded by crystalline melodies that fuse a pop sensibility with gently pulsing krautrock rhythms. This takes another step deeper into the former, with the latter half of the equation drifting ever further out of the foreground.
Yet the same issue that plagued the last couple of Cloudland Canyon albums crops up again: the record feels like a disjointed collection of songs scattered in a random order, rather than a complete album presented as a single work of art. As a result, many of the transitions are jarring, immediately ruining that fuzzy blissed-out state that plenty of the tracks transport the listener to rather well.
It is the likes of opener ‘Circuit City’ and ‘SEA TACT Whisping Waves’ that bring all these elements together in the most satisfying of ways. Floating away on their playful strains, the drive of the motorik drums ensures that these standout tracks do not get lost as background muzak, instead lodging in the brain as their hooks get caught deep within.
Despite the controversial method of construction, Cloudland Canyon still appears to be a genuine Cloudland Canyon record, faults and all, and sits comfortable within the project’s canon. Is this the start down a very dark path, or a view towards a gentler world of aid and compromise? Only time will tell.