With the 1994 release of Labradford's then groundbreaking Prazision album, Chicago's Kranky Records began their campaign of removing the "rock" from "indie rock," thus helping to pave the way for the post-rock/drone movement of the mid-'90s.
The label spent much of this decade in a low-key state but re-emerged last year with Deerhunter's much-hyped Cryptograms album. The label also pointed its winning streak toward Memphis last September when Kranky released the Silver Tongued Sisyphus EP by Cloudland Canyon. The label will release the band's second full-length album, Lie in Light, in April.
At its core, Cloudland Canyon is the duo of Simon Wojan and Kip Uhlhorn, the latter a Memphis native who moved back to his hometown with his wife in 2006. During the '90s, Uhlhorn spent four years as a founding member and guitarist for hardcore faves The Red Scare (when he was attending UT-Knoxville) and the next six years in the same role for Brooklyn's post-hardcore Panthers, a once-hot commodity that recorded one album for the Troubleman label and a subsequent two for Vice Records. Uhlhorn left Panthers before recording commenced on 2007's The Trick. "I spent a very long time not wanting to be in that band," Uhlhorn says.
Wojan, who lives in Germany, and Uhlhorn formed Cloudland in 2002 based on a mutual love for experimental music of all shapes and colors. Needless to say, Cloudland Canyon's recordings sound nothing like Uhlhorn's previous musical concerns. "We recorded an album and just gave it to friends, didn't do much with it, because no one was really putting out anything like that at the time," Uhlhorn says.
Tee Pee Records eventually released Cloudland's first full album, Requiems Der Nature 2002-2004, in 2006. Almost immediately, the band distanced itself from the hordes of ambient drone outfits by the frequent use of pop-song structures, something that has been further explored on the upcoming Lie in Light. Heavily influenced by the early-'70s Krautrock of Can, Faust, and Neu! (which Uhlhorn explains is along the lines of Steely Dan) and such obscure touchstones as the more topical free-rock of New Zealand's the Dead C and the unclassifiable weirdness made for decades by the Sun City Girls, Lie in Light puts a more challenging, drone-heavy sheen on the style that has made New Yorkers Animal Collective a recent indie buzz band. Cloudland Canyon has toured Europe and will depart for a tour of the states in support of the new album, with another overseas jaunt following in the fall.
"Live, we want it to be drone-y, but we are really particular about knowing exactly what we are doing at all times, as opposed to improvisation," Uhlhorn says. "And this time out we are definitely going to go for a more pop direction." — Andrew Earles
Folk Alliance Goes Public: The Memphis-based Folk Alliance is holding its annual conference this week at the downtown Marriott. The conference and its attendant showcases are open only to conference registrants, but there will be several public showcases held off-site.
This weekend, on Friday, February 22nd, and Saturday, February 23rd, the Center for Southern Folklore is hosting conference performers on two stages — electric and acoustic — from 7 p.m. to around midnight.
On Friday, the acoustic stage is packed with interesting acts, including '60s-era Brit Invasion stars Chad & Jeremy (7 p.m.), former Plimsouls frontman Peter Case (8:30 p.m.), and locals Deering & Down (11:30 p.m.).
On Saturday, Memphis-bred cult fave Bob Frank will close out the acoustic stage at 11:30 p.m. Frank is celebrating the February 19th release of his Red Neck, Blue Collar album for Memphis International Records, his first nationally released album since his eponymous 1972 debut on Vanguard.
The public showcases pick up at Otherlands Coffee Bar Monday, February 25th, and Tuesday, February 26th, with music starting at 8 p.m. each night. The best bet at Otherlands might be Canadian duo Twilight Hotel (9 p.m.), who were one of the standout acts at last year's conference. — Chris Herrington