've seen countless new acts come out of drydock confident in their musical vision and their singular sense of artistry. TRANSISTOR_1, the new EP from the recently formed electronica duo MIKKEL CLOUD, is their first official release and singer WHITTNEY MIKKEL's earthy coo and the otherworldly electronic arrangements of JAREN CLOUD are the sonic hallmarks of this new act. However, it is curious to note that the duo's first significant musical marking is a small collection of covers of RADIOHEAD songs. MIKKEL CLOUD take the songs HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY, PYRAMID SONG and TRUE LOVE WAITS and give the music the kind of musical spin that would make THOM YORKE proud. In fact the tunes feel right at home with MIKKEL CLOUD's jazzy electronica. Unlike the countless BUSTER BROWN's I've witnessed picking up an acoustic guitar and yelping the band's 1994 hit CREEP, MIKKEL CLOUD serve up an interpretation of RADIOHEAD's music that satisfies artistically and sonically and won't cause eyes to roll. In speaking with the spritely and adorable Anaheim-based couple over the phone, the challenges of getting people to take in intertpretations of RADIOHEAD seriously was not lost on either WHITTNEY or JAREN.
"I feel good about it." said MIKKEL when I asked her about the release of the three-song EP. "In getting the EP finished I became super OCD about mixes and revisiting the masters and tweaking things until they were perfect. We've tweaked this thing to where we couldn't tweek it any more. Right now we're feeling very good about what we have. We got this things as perfect as we could get it."
MIKKEL's partner in crime JAREN CLOUD echoed the same sentiments.
"I agree. There was a point where I was kind of sick of the songs but we kept pushing at getting the mixes right until we knew that what we had felt good."
I was understandably curious about the reactions that the duo have received to their debut EP.
"There hasn't been anything crazy." said MIKKEL. "I have noticed a wider audience and some pretty positive reactions."
"Yeah, we did an EP with RADIOHEAD covers. It's not like we're gonna get any backlash!" Quipped CLOUD.
"Well we did get one comment on our teaser trailer for the EP." said MIKKEL. "It's about a minute and a half long and this person wrote "No (x42)" so we've had someone trolling us but that's just one asshole.We might be the millionth group doing RADIOHEAD covers but our approach is completely different."
There is certainly no disagreement here that TRANSISTOR_1 is an ambitious cover EP where the artists performing the tribute are able to assert their own musicality and not get lost in the tribute. However, why is this the first offering from MIKKEL CLOUD a cover project?
"That was all my fault actually." Admitted MIKKEL. "Personally, I'm not real big on doing covers and a cover project certainly wasn't something that excited me at all but there is something about RADIOHEAD. I'm just drawn to them. It is some of my favorite music of all time and it transports me to another place. When we started this MIKKEL CLOUD project there wasn't this design to make our first EP a covers project. Our love of RADIOHEAD and their music kind of morphed into this EP and we've got an interesting art project out of it."
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***IKKEL CLOUD's coverage in the pages of ROCKWIRED is something that has been long overdue. The duo first came onto our radar in Christmas of 2018 when the duo contributed their original song STOCKINGS to RADIO KSCR's annual Holiday music collection SCREW THE HOLIDAYS VOLUME THREE. The slinky, sexy number summed up the duo's musical agenda perfectly combining aloof electronica with a some playful earthy jazz characteristics that came through the most profoundly through WHITTNEY MIKKEL's plucky vocal performance. We even had a chance to speak with the couple then. This was where we had first got wind of the duo's plans to release an EP of RADIOHEAD covers. Fate would not allow us to forget MIKKEL CLOUD. In May of 2019 I had a chance meeting with WHITTNEY MIKKEL when I attended the second annual LA MUSIC VIDEO AWARDS in Covina, California. The end of May saw the official release of TRANSISTOR_1 and now all of the excitement this young duo had for this project makes all of the sense in the world to us. All that was left for me to figure out was what brought these two creative spirits together.
"This is the first musical project that we have ever worked on together." Admits CLOUD. "WHITTNEY and I met in music school. We were both jazz majors. One day we decided to meet for drinks and then we thought it would be a great idea to start collaborating. We felt that we were both on the same page creatively, but we didn't follow through with it. It wasn't until a year later that we contacted each other but we were too busy to do anything then. Two months after that she contacted me and we started dating and after that getting together to make music was pretty easy. It was even easier once we started living together."
I was curious to know what each of them felt the other brought to the table creatively and musically.
"All kinds of of stuff." says CLOUD. "My writing is all over the place and WHITTNEY has this ability to just reign everything to where everything is controlled and stays in one place. She just finds a way to make things work. With just a snippet of an idea, she can come up with a a really cool idea and stretch a small amount of content into something truly amazing. Personally, I hate engineering music but it is something that WHITTNEY loves to do. It's where she is a home. Her production influences are people like IMOGEN HEAP and you can really hear it in the music."
MIKKEL had this to say about CLOUD's contributions to the music:
"JAREN doesn't realize how good he is. His compositions are unique and he has a visual way of expressing the music through orchestration. He's an idea guy. In regard to what he brings to the project, I'm kind of at a loss for what to say. He is super creative. He's a great composer and he's very tenacious."
In my own mind, the music of RADIOHEAD coupled with the exciting musical interpretation by MIKKEL CLOUD would lend itself well to some kind of visual interpretation in a music video. I was curious to see if there were any plans for a music video, namely for the song HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY.
"There are no actual plans for a music video." Said MIKKEL. "In getting this EP done we had to get specific licenses in order to cover these songs and I'm not sure how those licenses would cover these songs in a visual medium. We actually had to purchase the rights to these songs. We did everything legally."
"I wouldn't know how to direct something like that." Added CLOUD. "I've got no clear ideas on how to get a video made for any of the sings. I think we would have to partner with a visual artist."
According to CLOUD, TRANSISTOR_1 is only the beginning for MIKKEL CLOUD. There are even a few projects beyond the scope of making EPs that have kept the duo busy.
"We've composed some music for a video game called SHUJINKOU which is put out by RICE GAMES. We we're also one of the composers on the team for a Japanese learning RPG and we've had fun with mixing Japanese instruments. Outside of that, we've got several EPs that we want to work on."
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here should be no doubt after listening to TRANSISTOR_1 that MIKKEL CLOUD is a duo with some lofty musical ambitions and we can't wait to hear those ambitions set to original music. What they've been able to do with the music of RADIOHEAD is astonishing and sets the tone for the duo's musical mission and further music to come.
"We want to take people on an an emotional journey with the music." Said MIKKEL. "We're living in a time where pop music can't to do that. It's like you're encouraged to be a passive listener where there is nothing deeper to connect to. We want the music to affect people on a personal level."
CLOUD was quick to add:
"We want to say what we want to say. For us, music is not about a popularity contest. This is definitely something that we're going to have to keep working at."
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