Cloudmachine is the band centered around Ruud Houweling. Some critics in the Netherlands regard him one of Hollands finest songwriters. The band is highly appreciated among a group of faithful music lovers around the world. Among them is Leo Blokhuis, a wellknown music writer in the Netherlands who said about their earlier records: “Hum Of Life and Back On Land are truly beautiful. Guitar pop with captivating melodies and a sweet melancholic undertone.” A discription that also fits A Gentle Sting perfectly. The new album is many colored but more accessible than it’s predecessor without changing the characteristic Cloudmachine sound. And the band evolved once again.
Cloudmachine compresses the entire history of popmusic into a signature sound with a timeless quality. “It would be nice if some songs last a while,” Houweling says, “I’ve always been interested in timeless songwriters like John Lennon, Tom Waits, Elliott Smith and Neil Finn. I love music that is stronger than trends. The essence of a song should be in it’s core and not in the sauce that’s covering it. We try to work with people who feel the same way.” On Back On Land (2009) the band worked with Oz Fritz in California. Fritz engineered the Grammy winning Tom Waits classic Mule Variations. For A Gentle Sting they set off for London to work with producer Tristan Longworth who was responsible for the albums of British singer-songwriter Jon Allen, known for radio hits such as ‘In Your Light’ and ‘Joanna’. “We were aiming for a compact sound with depth.
Tristan can truly bring out the soul of instruments in a mix. He did Jon Allen’s Dead Man’s Suit. To me that album sounds like it has always been there, like an old friend.”
Jon Allen joins in on backing vocals on the new album. The mastering was done by Mike Marsh (Björk, Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, Oasis, Chemical Brothers, Prodigy).
The album title fits the theme of the record and the contrasts in the music. It’s a line from ‘Hands On Skin’, a song about longing for the touch of someone that is out of reach.”Like an ongoing slight pain. We like the contrast in the title, there are contrasts in our music aswell.” Houweling is not keen on the boxing and labelling that is part of the music industry nowadays. “To me it is an achievement we have not been labelled a certain genre. We make atmospheric pop, rock, sometimes layered delicate songs that work well in a theatrical setting. There are many influences. But it is all very much Cloudmachine. What matters is capturing a feeling. That’s what fascinates me. If we succeed in doing that in a song, the feeling will be released again when it is played.”
The songs on A Gentle Sting were written in a time when Houweling was involved in a complex long distance relationship with a troubled artist. Much of what happened ended up in the songs in some way, but also in the artwork he created himself. “She painted flashes of images from her past that she didn’t understand. To get it out of her system she painted it on canvas. But because it confused her, she’d cover it up with black paint when it was done. I thought that was an intriguing image. This record is an attempt to cover the black with white, to make it a blank canvas again. That’s why there is a lot of hope in the songs.”
Hope with a sweet melancholic undertone is at the heart of the album. ‘Time Passes For Everyone’ is a song about the sense that things just are the way they are. “One day I walked through Holland Park in London. It has many benches with names of people engraved in them, who used to come to the park but are no longer with us. You see the workings of time, while kids are playing on fallen leaves. Old and young, everybody liked it there. It was a nice moment. I wrote the words to the song on one of those benches.” ‘Broken People’ has a slightly darker mood. “It’s about people with a little crack in them, or a layer of some sort covering them so they can’t fully shine. How many diamonds are laying around, unnoticed, hidden in the dirt?” Hope sounds through in ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. “The wiser you get, the closer you get to pure happiness”
A gentle Sting is like a diary in which Houweling sorts out his experiences. Yet the lyrics hold something for everybody and are applicable to multiple situations. “I try to say as much as I can using a minumum of words hopefully in such a way that it is recognisable as something people may have experienced themselves.”
Although Houweling does most of the arranging, the way the songs turn out in the end is very much a band effort. Together they bring the songs to life. “After three albums we know each other’s specific qualities and how to put that to use in getting the most out of an idea.” A new addition to the band is drummer Mike Coolen. “He can shift effortlessly, and he never plays too much. We are very happy he joined us. And Marco picked up the accordion aswell. The band really feels like a team.”
Cloudmachine did it again: the new songs are constructed beautifully with fine instrumentation and subtle tempo changes. Some songs may reveal their secrets only after multiple spins, but when you find it, you will always keep this band close to your heart.
Ruud Houweling vocals & guitars
Marco Kuypers piano, hammond
Richard Lagerweij guitars
Mike Coolen drums
Ray Edgar Duyns bass
A Gentle Sting (Bertus 2013)
Back On Land (Bertus 2009)
Hum Of Life (Bertus 2006)
Sweater For The Cold World (Coast To Coast 2003)
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