Cloudland Canyon have been a longtime staple of RSTB and over the years they’ve changed and mutated into a few different versions; drone, krautrock, ethereal Kosmiche. Through it all the one constant has been Kip Ulhorn steering the ship through these new waters. He’s solo but not alone here, taking the band further into propulsive pop than ever before but with ample help from a cast of ringers from his surroundings in Memphis. It’s Cloudland at heart and by name, but this seems like a whole new band filling in their shoes. Partly this is because those filling the shoes have a diverse well to dip from and they pepper the album perfectly. Ross Johnson (Panther Burns, Alex Chilton), Lesa Alridge (Big Star) and Jody Stephens (Big Star) all play on the album while Ezra Buchla, M. Geddes Gengras, Kliph Scurlock (ex-Flaming Lips) and David Scott Stone (ex-LCD Soundsystem) add their own touches and contributions as well. And if you’re assembling a team with that kind of clout why not pull in some psych rock royalty for the production as well? Ulhorn enlisted Sonic Boom to co-produce the album and his signature space and weight are felt for sure.
The tracks themselves burst with a lightness that’s reared its head in sparkles on prior albums but now beams from the inside out like a beacon on An Arabesque. There’s that skitter and grind of Krautrock beats pushing the pedals but the top is soaring harmonies and crystalline synths that give everything a glow of sunset around the edges. A club element rears its head from time to time but its balanced out by the noise element that peeks in just as often. On the whole, this is Ulhorn’s strongest set yet and it puts Cloudland Canyon into a higher echelon of psych-pop that feels like a new beginning.
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