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    Mon, 12 May 2008 12:49:28

    Guest Collector: Cloud Cult - From snippets of classical perfection to high-water concept albums, the eco-conscious band leader outlines the music that molded him

    With Earth-friendly, green living all the rage, the eco conscious indie rock outfit Cloud Cult should find an even more receptive audience for their brand of sustainable experimentation. Led be singer/songwriter Craig Minowa, the band places a heavy emphasis on environmentalism, releasing all of their albums in packages made from 100% recycled materials, and reducing the carbon foot print of their tours through energy offsets via NativeEnergy.com

    While firmly committed to their cause in practice—like anyone who claims the conscious moniker should be—it rarely, if ever, creeps into music. It's not like they need to work that angle to stand out from the crowd anyway, their music sets them apart from the pack all on its own. Incorporating elements from across the spectrum, they mix in slices of indie, electronica folk and cabaret for a unique blend that's earned accolades far and wide. Intrigued by their sound, we tracked down Minowa to take us behind the music and shares the albums that shaped his sound. As we found, it takes drops from many different bodies of water to make these clouds take shape.

    So says Minowa: "These albums (many of which are un-hip, but I don't care) have stood the test of time with me. Some of them I don't listen to much anymore, but If I really think about the elements that have most influenced the way I write, it would be these albums."

    Peter Gabriel - Passion
    It's not really Peter Gabriel. It's actually a collection of artists from all over the world, many being indigenous and performing on traditional instruments. Gabriel brought them all together and helped orchestrate this masterpiece.

    The Art of Noise - In Visible Silence
    For two decades these folks have been taking random sounds, clatter and clank, then sculpting the noise into music. I like the tracks that aren't straightforward. This is the kind of music that used to get me beat up in Junior High, because it's too artsy. But it bends your brain and forces you to think about music in a new way.

    Pink Floyd - The Wall
    It's the closest thing to a perfect concept album you can find. The reason the album is dying in modern day is because everyone is focusing on releasing 3 minute tracks. Here's a 90-minute story, laid out in songs like chapters. This also inspired me to start putting recordings of TV and radio into songs.

    Nine Inch Nails - Fixed
    There are some amazing sound sculptures on this album. Various mastering artists took the tracks from "Broken" and sculpted them into what you hear here. In areas, there is no tempo or real melody. This is not something to tap your toes to or sing along with. It's something to make you feel like you are dreaming.

    The Fall - I Am Kurious Oranj
    This introduced me to yet another way of looking at music. These folks are incredibly theatrical on stage. This album is like an odd punk rock performance art play.


    The Damned - Light at the End of the Tunnel
    This is a collection of their tracks from over the years. The last track is this long, meditative sound sculpture with odd sounds and violin.



    Beck - Mellow Gold
    This is the first time I heard an artist make an album that moves through multiple genres in one album. It helps me stick to my guns whenever a critic says we are too eclectic.



    Enya - Watermark
    I know this is horribly un-hip to admit. But it moves me. She layers dozens of her own vocals in these thick harmonies that you never hear anywhere else. She also had me convinced that it is possible to be a studio song-writer and musician and never need to go on tour. I was wrong about that.

    Mozart - Requiem
    The best piece of music ever written. But turn it off as soon as it climaxes and returns to a major key in the latter part. Mozart died writing the piece, and his assistant finished writing the end of it. It feels very clear to me the moment Mozart left the planet and the assistant took over, because the energy of the piece is gone.

    The Cure - Animosity
    I found this collection of odd random bootlegs and unreleased tracks in an alley in London back in 1989. It's a collection of old school Cure, when Robert Smith was in full flow poetry mode with a way of playing guitar you never heard in any other band. I was blown away by the complexity of the lyrics and tried writing like that in my darker days, but I later found out the genius was actually just drug induced randomness, because he was actually on heroin when he wrote most of these songs. I don't listen to it much anymore, but there were a couple of years in my life when this was something I incessantly listened to and tried to emulate in my own songwriting.

    —The ARTISTdirect Staff
    05.14.08



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