Release Date: 10 April 2007 (Earthology)
The 19 tracks of Cloud Cult’s The Meaning of 8 are full of diverse instruments. It implores acoustic and electronic drums. From one verse to the next, a song will have very different arrangements including typical rock band and orchestral instruments. The lyrics are all tied to stories of how the whole world is connected together. Good and evil, right and wrong, are all mixed together. The melodies are catchy and the message is meaningful. The scope of this album is vast, evocative, and eloquent.
“Did you just knock?” I asked my girlfriend.
“I think someone’s at the door.” I got up from my computer where I had started to write this actual review. The front door was wide open. Through the screen I could see there was someone standing on the porch. He had a smile buried within his beard and wire-rimmed glasses. There were a few buttons on his little brown vest and laminated press passes hanging around his neck.
“Hey, how are you doing?” he asked as though he knew me.
“Ah, I’m good.”
“Good. My name is Craig. Is anyone is the house an artist at all?”
“Yeah. We’re both writers and musicians.”
“Oh. That’s great. I was asking because I’m from Writer's Memorial. It’s a monthly literary magazine. Artist's can submit their writings or artwork for publication in our magazine. We also send the submissions to the Library of Congress. So then they're like, preserved for all time. Pretty cool, huh?” He was reciting his pitch without much passion, but he somehow hit me on the right day.
Having been listening to Cloud Cult’s The Meaning Of 8 and checking out the band’s website, I was in a mode to support a grassroots organization. As their website explains, Cloud Cult was “established as a not-for-profit music centered environmental and philosophical movement.” They have “rejected major label record offers in favor of staying independent, so the band can do everything as environmentally friendly as possible,” even creating their own record label, Earthology Records.
The band’s live shows are apparently very eclectic. They present a multimedia production by sharing the stage with painters and project live videos of the band and audience. On stage, the band includes guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, cello, violin, trumpet, flute and percussion. And their newest album, The Meaning Of 8, is just as diverse as the live show.
Ultimately, thoughts of Cloud Cult’s independent growth created interest in the Writer’s Memorial. I was confusing one thought for another. “Chemicals Collide” deals with some of those same issues, but like many Cloud Cult songs, on a much larger scale. The song mixes segments of electronic drums with a mellow rolling guitar line. The song changed from orchestral music to dance rhythm with lyrics “I was out paying close attention, or was I lost inside my thoughts?/ These days it's hard to tell what's outside from what's in my mind/ But, oh God, it's beautiful and insatiable the way our chemicals collide.”
I was hoping the Writer’s Memorial would be as eclectic as Cloud Cult’s album and was interested in hearing more about the magazine.
“Right now, we’re asking for $20 donations for a CD of music we have received and one copy of our magazine. Can I sign you up?” Craig asked, with a hint in his voice that he assumed I was interested.
“Well, we’re both broke after taxes.”
“I’ve been hearing that all day.” Craig looked very depressed.
As a writer and musician, I was interested in this magazine. My interested was growing. The escalation of my appeal was similar to the song “Pretty Voice.” It’s starts with the quick movement of a steady strumming electric guitar. The lyrics begin by explaining a theatrical scene. “The scene begins/ with a hermit’s melody/ sung by a bashful bird,/ hung in a violet sky./ There are no words,/ but there’s understanding.” As the song builds adding woodwinds, horns and drums, the story continues to tell the story of a girl who starts singing along with the birdsong. “Here comes the storyline/ about the usual struggle/ between fear and love./ This is the lifelong song/ that we're all singing./ It's been so long,/ since I've heard that pretty voice.”
I asked, “Do you have a website? Is there some way I can look into this and possibly get a copy in the future?”
“We have a website, but we don’t have an online version of our publication. And that way I wouldn’t get my commission. How about this? If you make a smaller donation and just get the magazine.”
“How about $10.”
“Let me see what I have.” I checked my wallet. “I have exactly $10 in my wallet. I’ll do it.”
“Great.” He gave me a copy of the magazine. “Now, can I get some info to complete the order?” But it was already complete. He had my money. I had the magazine. I still obliged. After giving me a receipt, we chatted for a while about music and other people he's spoken to today. "It's been a rough day. There was a house a few blocks away where the guy who answered the door said, 'Let my hippy flag fly and color me oversensitive. No, I’m not an artist,' and slammed the door."
“Sorry to hear about that,” I tried to empathize.
“It’s all a part of the job.” Then Craig changed the subject a bit and rhetorically asked, “You said you were a musician? You should send in your music to us for review. What kind of stuff do you play or listen to?”
“I guess my stuff is indie rock. And when you knocked, I was listening this band called Cloud Cult.”
“I haven’t heard of them. What do they sound like?”
“They’re new album is very eclectic. One song will sound like a folk anthem. The next one will be a modern alternative pop hit. Then there will be one full of distorted guitars. They’ll throw in a dance song. My favorite song is called ‘The Deaf Girl’s Song.’” It has an immense sounding acoustic guitar. “It tells the story of a deaf girl who sings a song of silence that becomes a hit. The lyrics build to the phrases, ‘Three minutes of silence on the radio is the best damn gift for everyone’ and ‘She made the world stand still.’”
“I’ll have to check them out. I should probably get to the next house, though. Thanks for your support.”
After building up the story of “The Deaf Girl’s Song,” I forgot to mention to Craig how the album ends. The last track on The Meaning Of 8 is called “Song Of The Deaf Girl.” It’s a minute and a half of silence. Because of the way the album plays out, this last track is neither anticlimactic or cliché.
I ended up with an overpriced magazine. I also got a story to use for this review. What comes around goes around, but what you get isn’t always what you expect. Maybe that’s the meaning the number 8.
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