One of the most fun things about the last half-decade or so of music has been listening to a brand new generation of players modernize the so-called shoegazer movement of the 1990s. Back in the day (you know, fifteen years ago or whatever), bands like Ride, Lush, Slowdive and the canonical My Bloody Valentine used effects and processing to make their guitars sound like anything but guitars. But they still came at their music from the mentality of a rock band—no matter how mutated, the basic language was still voice, guitars, bass, drums.
Now an even greater fluency with the computer and its possibilities has allowed solo artists and duos to create something akin to this music but in a slightly tweaked fashion. Here, the primary engine driving the music is the model perfected by another brand of '90s acts such as Underworld and Chemical Brothers—the IDM DJ duo. I don't mean this to be a particularly novel observation, but hearing the combination of swerving MBV-style chords and loop-based grooves of Fin Eaves track "Pinklike / Version" is one of those moments when you can really see the fruits of evolution. Like an equation in calculus, Cloudland Canyon are a problem wherein finding any 'x' variable in their chain of influence is just a matter of puzzling over it for a little while—obscured and refracted, sure, but it’s all there.
This duo pulls from more than the aforementioned template (there’s a heavy '60s psych undertone, for example), but it's most thrilling taken as a update of those early shoegazer albums—the ones made before bands like Ride or Lush allowed their rock instincts to push the gauzy FX aside and reveal themselves as the more conventional rock/pop bands they always kind of were. This record drifts everywhere and nowhere all at once—shards of pop songs and hooks float around in an amorphous jumble, and it's ultimately up to your ears to assemble it in a form that makes the most sense. In keeping with their model of 'engine', Cloudland Canyon really don't write songs as much as mobius strip suites that relive their brief lives over and over until they fade out. Which, more than anything, is actually somewhat conventional music in today's world...and it pleases me to no end that we've evolved to the point where this style of expression is as normal as picking up a guitar, setting up a drum kit and counting to four.