Obscured by Clouds is a rock album by Pink Floyd based on their soundtrack for the French film La Vallée, by Barbet Schroeder. Some copies of the album refer to the film by its alternate English title, The Valley. The LP was released in the UK on June 3, 1972 on Harvest/EMI and then in the U.S. on June 15, 1972 on Harvest/Capitol. The album reached #6 on the UK album charts and #46 on the U.S. album charts (where it was certified Gold by the RIAA in March, 1994). In 1986, the album was released on CD. A digitally remastered CD was released in March 1996 in the UK and August 1996 in the U.S.
At this point in their career, the band were not new to scoring movies. They had already scored the films The Committee, and More, in 1968 and 1969, respectively.
The band were already working on The Dark Side of the Moon during this period, but production was interrupted when the band travelled to France to score the movie. Nick Mason refers to the project: "After the success of More, we had agreed to do another sound track for Barbet Schroeder. His new film was called La Vallée and we travelled over to France to record the music in the last week of February… We did the recording with the same method we had employed for More, following a rough cut of the film, using stopwatches for specific cues and creating interlinking musical moods that would be cross-faded to suit the final version… The recording time was extremely tight. We only had two weeks to record the soundtrack with a short amount of time afterwards to turn it into an album."
While recording the music, the band were free to use "standard rock song construction" to their advantage, and such was the case for "Obscured by Clouds". The title track featured an early use of electronic drums, or "electric bongos" as Mason calls them. Rick Wright foreshadows what is to come later with his use of synthesisers on this album. A droning note (played on an EMS VCS3 synthesiser) begins the album. This song was often used to open their live shows in 1973. The band also used themes to their advantage. The melody played in "Burning Bridges" is echoed later in "Mudmen". The song "Childhood's End" is said to have been inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's novel of the same name.
"Free Four" was the first Pink Floyd song to get significant airplay in the U.S., and the first to deal directly with the death of Eric Fletcher Waters, Roger Waters' father.
In a snippet of interview footage that appeared in the 1974 theatrical version (later released on VHS and Laserdisc) and subsequent "Director's Cut DVD" versions of Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, Roger Waters stated that early UK pressings of the album contained excessive sibilance (a loud high-frequency sound most apparent on "s", "sh", and "t" sounds which often causes distortion.) As Waters says in the film, the sibilant distortion was caused by "a bad cut", meaning it came from a poor quality tape to disk transfer during mastering. The sibilance problem was corrected in later pressings.
Obscured by Clouds was the second Pink Floyd album to feature the VCS 3 synthesiser as stated by EMS Archives.
La Vallée is a 1972 French film written and directed by Barbet Schroeder. The film stars Bulle Ogier as Viviane, a woman who goes on a strange and accidental voyage of self-discovery through the New Guinea bush.
The Pink Floyd album Obscured by Clouds is the soundtrack to the film.
Viviane (Ogier), the wife of the French consul in Melbourne, joins a group of explorers in search of a mysterious hidden valley in the bush of New Guinea, where she hopes to find the feathers of an extremely rare exotic bird. Along the way through the dense jungles of Papua New Guinea and on the peak of Mount Gilowe, she and the small group of explorers make contact with the Mapuga tribe, one of the most isolated groups of human beings on earth, who inspire them to explore their own humanity, unfettered by their own subjective ideas of "civilization." The search becomes a search for a paradise said to exist within a valley marked as "obscured by clouds" on the maps. The film ends with their arrival at the valley, having endured much travail in the journey.
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