Cloudchamber; Safaris!

Johannes Bergmark [constructions (whalefish, finger violin, blowfish, metal harp), analog and modular synthesizers, clavinet, voice, saw, unspecified objects] - Martin Küchen [soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, metal barrel, sandwich grill, miscellaneous percussive junk, bow, guitar, trumpet, voice] - Sören Runolf [electric guitar, amplified objects, electronic processors, virtual modular synthesizer, cello] - Leif Elggren [cover art]

Cloudchamber homepage

Fylkingen Records FYCD 1020. Duration: 72:13

1. A Homely Safari [15:46]
2. The Molly Hotwall Adventures [13:38]
3. People's Safari of America [7:48]
4. On a Tranquillizing Safari [6:57]
5. Holes Through Holes [9:04]
6. Half-Leopards and Semi-Turtles [15:20]
7. Holy and Blind 3:12]

It’s like those little sounds you may hear early mornings in the country, up in Ångermanland, at your brother’s farm, when you reluctantly wake up to have that necessary but drowsy pee (if you’re coming of age…) at 4 AM when the September sun is hoisting itself up behind the birches on the eastern side of the stream which flows by your brother’s sauna. It’s just like those tiny sounds of a jingle jangle countryside morning, those inconspicuous but definitely real sounds, the origin of which you’ll probably never find out.

Perhaps a brother on his brother's Norrland guest house porch...
where the Cloudchamber sounds haunt him at sunrise
(Photo: Rolf Nordin September 2002)

If you also brought your copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with you from down south, you’re bound to understand what I talk about; those prying, evasive little sounds which you eventually – to get some peace of mind which will enable a few hours’ extended sleep – attribute to creaking wood or drops of morning dew or the bells your brother’s neighbor’s bulls carry… even though you’ve got the logic of The Hitchhiker’s Guide messing up your comforting sense of reason…

Well, that’s just how it sounds, the very beginning of Cloudchamber’s
Safaris. No doubt the title is meant to hint at safaris through sounds, and why not.
The inconspicuousness eventually gives way to louder stretches of metallic self evidence, but the
Hitchhiker’s Guide’s feeling of the remote and the beyond in the present lingers on; that feeling of hilarious amounts of unpredictability, of improbability, especially when the gang starts sounding like leaking thermos flasks or intense ant conversations… Fun!

The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy!

The atmosphere of the early – too early! – morning at the damp (dew!) porch of your brother’s guest house at his Norrland farm hangs on through the louder sequences, opening to your inner eye views of Lake Graninge and its wide spaces of early morn breezes, but after a while, towards the conclusion of track 1 – A Homely Safari – the gang of Cloudchamber brings buckets and all kinds of farmhand utensils that are usually found at your brother’s huge barn, so that’s where your inner vision is taking you next, stirring up dust and all night microbes from the time when the barn also housed a hen house with all its cackling inhabitants – and the light of morning seeps through the cracks in the walls and the music. Splendid!

Perhaps your brother's huge barn, where Cloudchamber utensils
may litter the premises with their... sounds!

(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin September 2002)

As Cloudchamber whisks towards the end of track 1 they rustle about in the dark corners of your brother’s barn, awakening really small sounds that have been dormant there since the actual farming stopped sometime in the 1970s maybe… and boy are they evasive and reluctant, almost on the level of the jingle jangle early morning urination hour ghost sounds…

The jolly group – Bergmark, Küchen and Runolf – gathers round a rural breakfast table, messing about with newspapers which still smell from the presses, matchboxes for trembling smoker-hands and some more elusive, transparent caffeine rushes as yesterday take its early morning toll, pouring an unsorted assortment of last night’s leftovers through makeshift instruments of whim and fortune, piling up in characteristic sound piles, i.e., characteristic of Cloudchamber

Perhaps inside your brother's huge Graninge barn, in the corner
where the fowl used to cackle... like Cloudchamber...

(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin September 2002)

The group’s name makes me think of Harry Partch, who also constructed his own instruments, and who utilized something he called cloud chamber bowls. A description of these mystic and certainly Hitchhiker’s Guide-worthy sound sources is found in the booklet of Mode Records 33:

[They] are sections of 12-gallon Pyrex carboys, suspended from a redwood frame on ropes. These difficult-to-find and impossible-to-tune glass gongs are played very carefully by a percussionist who risks the anguish of splintered disaster.
The original bowls were found at
the Radiation Laboratory of the University of California at Berkley, and had been used as cloud chambers to trace the paths of sub-atomic particles.

But so much for that detour; I don’t know to what extent – if any – Cloudchamber owes its name to Partch or the Radiation Laboratory or rumors of either… (Again a feeling of the presence of Arthur Dent, Slartibartfast, Ford Prefect, Marvin, Zaphod Beeblebrox et consortes looms in the room…)

Bergmark, Küchen and Runolf continue through telegraph lines or water hoses; hard to tell which… but the passage is thin and thinning, which escalates the pressure of sound, just barely seeping through these parsimonious auditory canals… like too fat a dump truck passing through too thin a lane with a load of old thoughts for the smelly thought dump on the outskirts of consciousness. It’s rusty, mangled, grainy, rained-on, forgotten – but it is music in the Cloudchamber vicinity! A transistor radio inside this load of crap in vain transmits short-wave static, only vibrating through inner metal worlds of minerals and molecular heaps on the inside of garbage, in a ghastly loop of forced behavior; Cloudchamber eclectics!

In track 3 a more introspective, wholesome tendency can be traced, but just… traced. It’s Slartibartfast lunacy as usual, through the galaxy, or maybe just down to the lake, across the sloping plane of your brother’s farmland, doggy joining you for the walk – and as you sit on a rock on the shore, silently staring across the surface of Lake Graninge, the glittering reflections on the water turns out to be exact visionary transpositions of Cloudchamber sounds of track 3 of
Safaris; People’s Safari of America.
Perhaps the prolonged, fragile line at some sections of the piece paints cool watery sketches of forest-reaching lake lands, of northern states of the mind; I wouldn’t be all too surprised – this is highly intricate, improbable spurs of the musical moment; sudden messages encoded on the watery pebbles of a Norrland shore… almost impossible to interpret before another message is superimposed on it, only to be over-written by another message, and so forth – but the intense messaging is keeping up, you bet!

...and this is the way Cloudchamber presents its music
in promotional dispatches...

Tonight, where I sit, there is a predominant feeling of semi-transparent country music beauty present. I sip coffee and think about a bottle of whiskey over in the cupboard as I sit here, and it’s like some song of Dwight Yoakam or Alison Krauss – and it has nothing what so ever to do with Cloudchamber, except that I’m pre-occupied – and occupied – with writing about their CD as of now… and that is exactly the kind of improbabilities and worse which could stem from the general generosity with insanity ever-present in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which itself has a lot in common with the atmospheres in the music of Cloudchamber

Poetry on the fragility of glass – or as Malcolm Goldstein would (and has!) put it; the fragility of line… - wanders in absent-minded patterns (the patterns of a jig saw puzzle) across the unclear view through a misted-over window of your brother’s Graninge farmhouse, through which you only sense – with your eyes – the blurry motions of colors and shapes, like were you finding yourself wandering through your afterlife, through your Bardo, through your Karmic results, scaring yourself with the scarecrows of your own imagination… and the fragility of this wobbling line of music is beauty unto itself, leaning into itself in a slow implosion of insight… and I listen with attention and a restful mind to track 4 of this Cloudchamber CD.
Ah… it’s barbed wire in the morning, cows resting like warm, primeval reminiscences in the damp grass… while transparent elves blow their little silver trumpets for the autumn bluebells…

Cloudchamber softly speaks on the inside of atmospheres of dew, as crisp light through the petals of bluebells spreads a bluish hue over sudden desperate electric currents of cerebral cortexes… but who cares about clamorous vocal disagreements, accompanied by short, wailing bursts of amplified guitars; they’re just bad dreams inside human bodies curled up like cats all around your brother’s farm at daybreak, their eyes moving back and forth behind closed lids, watched over by soft-eyed creatures of the wild, raising their dripping muzzles silently in the early morning.