Artiest / Band: 

De belangrijkste man bij de Nederlandse band Cloudmachine is nog steeds Ruud Houweling. Hij was ook degene die een nummer voor de succesvolle soloplaat van zangeres Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) mocht aandragen. Ruim een jaar geleden kon ik zeer positief schrijven over Hum Of Life (2008), een puike popplaat met duidelijke symfonische trekjes. Voor de productie van Back On Land hebben Ruud en de zijnen hun heil gezocht in Amerika, alwaar Oz Fritz, de geluidsman van de Grammy-winnende Tom Waits, voor een organisch geluid moest zorgen. Nou, dat is hem buitengewoon goed gelukt. Back On Land is een bijzonder sfeervolle plaat waarbij de popliedjes bij tijd en wijle zijn doordrenkt van stukjes oude jazz uit de zuidelijke staten, wat vooral te horen is in de stukken waaraan blazers zijn toegevoegd. Andere tracks krijgen ondersteuning van strijkers en de inzet van een Würlitzer, een oude piano uit 1938, een vibrafoon en soms akoestische gitaren die deze muziek een nostalgisch, melancholiek karakter geven. Vooral in Spit Me Out, het nummer waaraan de titel is ontleend, is die melancholie met de bijna fluister-zingende Houweling goed te horen. Het gelukzalige gevoel van de jaren zestig overheerst in tracks als Siren’s Song en We’re Watching You, terwijl een nummer als Pirouettes On New Legs gewoon een lieflijk akoestisch stukje piano is. In de meer uptempo passages van The Gold geeft Cloudmachine een knipoogje naar U2 en in Sanctuary bijvoorebeeld, is er duidelijk sprake van enige overeenkomst met het werk van Tom Waits. Back On Land is geen progressief album, maar puike pop gespeeld met veel op grotendeels authentieke instrumenten en dat is opnieuw een knappe prestatie van Ruud Houweling en zijn mannen.


Cloudmachine is a Dutch band led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Ruud Houweling. Back On Land is the band's third offering and successor to the highly-acclaimed album Hum Of Life. For the new album, Ruud was not so much looking for incorporating elements from progressive music, but rather to create an atmosphere that he so intensely admires from the album Mule Variations by Tom Waits. His attempts to make contact with Grammy-winning engineer Oz Fritz were successful and Fritz came to the Netherlands to familiarize himself with the band and their music. Using almost exclusively authentic instruments, the recordings were made in Weesp and the mixing was done by Fritz in California. Next to their own instruments - guitars, keyboards, bass and drums - the band used a Würlitzer grand piano from 1938, a Hammond organ, an old piano, a vibraphone and sometimes even brushes for the drums. The organic sound is the most important characteristic for Back On Land. Opener Things Are Going To Change is a nice mid-tempo pop song with a delightful ‘busy bass’ played by Ray Edgar Duyns. Immediately the quality of the music is striking and every little detail is taken care of, like the string arrangement at the end of the song, that reminds me a bit of Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles. An acoustic piano played by Marco Kuypers opens Big Love, a tender love song with a more rocking chorus: pounding bass and the Hammond organ. Another love song is Safe Haven, a combination of acoustic guitar, piano and vocals, often in multiple layers. The occasional echoing electric guitar by Richard Lagerweij contributes to the feeling of nostalgia. Even more, the strings and horn section producing an atmosphere that comes close to some of Tom Waits’ songs. The Siren's Song is catchy with the same characteristics as in the first track. From the southern states of the USA we know the melancholy songs with a bluesy touch that we can appreciate in Grace. This song contains an acoustic guitar, softly pump organ, piano, drums and bass in the verses, but a more powerful instrumentation in the choruses with more raw electric guitars and an excellent vocal performance by Houweling. Pirouettes On New Legs is a piano solo performed on an old piano. The track with at least some progressive influences is Fading Picture, an electric track in the same vein as some of the songs on the album Calling All Stations by Genesis. More keyboards and a deep humming bass in the more rocking poptune The Gold, although the verses mainly consist of vocals, drums, bass, acoustic guitar and piano. Acoustic piano, brushes on the drums, a slide guitar and thus the ultimate melancholy in Spit Me Out, a very touching track sounding quite ‘American’ but in the good sense! The title of this album comes from the lyrics of this song, sensitively sung by Houwelingen. The ingredients for the up-tempo rocker We're Watching You are the subtle drumming by Michiel van Zundert, Houweling’s sometimes distorted vocals and a Würlitzer. Sadly the album is already finished with Sanctuary. An electric guitar, at some point an almost whispering vocal, a pump organ and a brass arrangement provide an atmosphere as we could expect to hear in American movies when someone is buried in the southern states: a lot of sadness, melancholy and a bit of slow jazz. The artwork of this digipack is tastefully done by Ruud and the booklet contains some photo’s and the complete lyrics and credits.

In summary Back On Land, just as its predecessor Hum Of Life, is again a superb Dutch production. The organic, warm and somewhat melancholic atmosphere has been created perfectly combining Houweling’s compositions, the band’s craftsmanship and an engineer extraordinaire. Not so much prog, but a very nice pop-rock album for all those out there leaning more towards good songs and arrangements rather than long tracks with extensive soloing. The more you listen to this album, the more it grows on you!