Sunday, August 13, 2006

On My Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: -
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -and gazed -but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

– William Wordsworth

Here are some songs that, as it happens, have a sort of atmospheric, barometric cloud theme running through them. And a few other unrelated tangents are thrown in. Obviously, one could have included "Both Sides Now" and "Off My Cloud" and others, but that's not how we roll.

As Lefty mentioned a while back in his post about Audience, some bands have names that now elude easy detection in the Google Age. Type in “Audience” and, unless you know more about the band – a song, a band member, a record title or label – you’re not likely to have any luck tracking them down in the electro ether. Same with The United States of America, a late-60s avant-psychedelic group of grad students from LA. The band mixed an early ethnomusicological bent with a little John Cage-style uncertainty, electronic experimentation, and some “white collar conservative pointing his plastic finger at me”- variety hippie attitude. The record, recorded in 1967-68 for Columbia, was one of the label’s bigger flops. It was reissued on by Sundazed in 2004 with a bunch of bonus previously unreleased tracks. “Cloud Song” is just beautiful. It’s like futuristic lieder as composed for Woody Allen’s Sleeper. The other USA songs don’t have a cloud theme, but they’re worth a listen, too.

The Clientele are jazzy jangly sleepy English indie rockers. I saw them play in Northampton not too long ago. There may have been a dozen people there. Live, it’s clear that the guitarist has some serious sneaky jazz chops, with all kinds of crazy oddball augmented, nine, seven, diminished and whatever else chord voicings. “House on Fire” is one of the lovelier songs from The Violet Hour, an almost completely beautiful record. It’s hard to think of who to compare them to. Like My Morning Jacket, the Clientele go in for the majestic cathedrals of reverb, but there’s no sour mash. Instead it’s afternoon tea, crisps, some tobacco and perhaps a splash of scotch. At times the Clientele bring to mind early weird stuff by the Kinks. Like “See My Friends” “Strange Effect” and “Fancy.”

“Big Sky,” off of The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society, isn’t really about clouds. And it’s not even really about skies. It’s more about an aloof all-knowing god. I always loved the scatter-shot Beefheart-eque drum rolls on this one, the insistent high, one-note drone on the chorus, and the backing vocals.

And one more. “Charm (Over ‘Burundi Cloud’)” from Jon Hassell and Brian Eno’s Possible Musics Fourth World Vol. I.

My laptop doesn't seem to be able to upload pictures to Blogger anymore. That's why I couldn't post cloud paintings by John Constable or a great picture of Chief Red Cloud. Anyone have any suggestions?

“Cloud Song” - The United States of America

“Where Is Yesterday” - The United States of America

“The American Metaphysical Circus” - The United States of America

“House on Fire” The Clientele

“Big Sky” - The Kinks

“Fancy” - The Kinks

“Charm (Over ‘Burundi Cloud’)” – Jon Hassell and Brian Eno

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