A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Back again, musos! Sorry for the delay in posting, I've been posting over at the new blog, Pond Of Tunes, and of course, getting ready for the upcoming nuptials--which take place one week from this coming Monday!!!! This past weekend was a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, so Pixie and I went into Oxford Centre to find some wedding clothes, and I got to hit HMV Records with a bit of spare cash....after much deliberating on which titles to pick up..I decided on The White Noise's An Electric Storm, which I managed to find--I was shocked that it was in HMV, which seems too mainstream to carry an "outro" record like it. I also bought Marillion's Clutching At Straws, the last studio effort with Fish on vocals.

"An Electric Storm" lives up to it's cult electro-psychedelic reputation..it's very strange and extremely dark at times. It's members, David Vorhaus, Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson met at a lecture that Derbyshire and Hodgson were giving on electronic music. Vorhaus was born in the U.S., but had moved to the UK to avoid the draft in the mid-60s. Derbyshire and Hodgson were already a "group", called Unit Delta Plus, and had composed the Dr. Who television theme for the BBC. Vorhaus convinced the pair to join him in an experimental project, and The White Noise was born. Somehow, Vorhaus met Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, and played him a demo tape of Love Without Sound, which would become the opening track on "An Electric Storm". The group had a series of singles in mind, but Blackwell provided an advance for a whole album. The White Noise set up their own studio, which they dubbed Keleidophon and painstakingly assembled all of the tracks using primitive synths and hundreds of overdubs and tape-splices. The Island accountants started to grow nervous that nothing had turned up after a few months of work, and forced the group to finish the album. It was released in 1969, but the group played no concerts, or conducted any interviews--and the record quickly disappeared...only to be taken up in underground circuits and college campuses. The White Noise eventually whittled down to just Vorhaus, and he recorded a follow-up in 1974 for Virgin..and a last album in 1980 for Pulse Records, neither of which have been re-issued on CD...and talked of making another album in the 90s, but I don't know if it ever materialised.

"An Electric Storm" starts with "Love Without Sound", which could have been a modest hit-single..with it's echoed vocals (courtesy John Whitman) and tiki-like drum sounds. It was probably a bit *too* strange for the charts, even in 1969. The sped-up and slowed-down tape loops and sound effects (a woman laughing and dogs barking), make it an unsettling love song. My Game Of Loving is next...and I describe it as a psychedelic soft-porn soundtrack, or perhaps incedental music for a "Barbarella" out-take. There was no way this was going to chart...still it's electronic soundscape (well, what you can hear behind all of the moaning) is state-of-the-art for the late-60s--it's closest contemporaries would be The United States Of America or Fifty Foot Hose. Here Come The Fleas is next...and is described in the booklet as "an obvious single choice", but it doesn't sound anything but an interesting electro-novelty--with it's off-kilter melody, sped-up voices and West Indian guy complaining that he can't hear his steel-band. It does make for a nice goofy moment amidst the weirdness and other-wordly quality of the rest of the album. The Firebird is another Whitman-sung tune, and to me, sounds like the other "almost-single" on the record--it's got a jaunty melody and nice synth curlicues. Your Hidden Dreams features vocals by Val Sharpe and floats along on it's trippy background. The lyrics are quite tough to hear at times, but don't come off as "inaudible" as described in the CD booklet.

Side 2 (well, it would have been on the original LP) is where things get on the "bad trip, maaaan" stage. The Visitation is an 11-minute jaunt into a creepy electro-psych tape collage. It has a bit of a "narrative" about a bloke who goes to visit his girlfriend, but who is killed on his motorcycle before reaching his destination. The piece is in sections, and it's music changes from low synth drones to carnival-like organs to bell-like chimes...with vocal samples of a woman crying and a man talking about "returning to my darkness". This may sound corny, but against the weird musical backing, it's very effective. The tunes ends with the woman crying. Following that, just to cheer you up...is Black Mass: (An Electric Storm In Hell), which begins with eerie chanting, then goes into a drum pattern which decidedly owes more than a little to Pink Floyd's A Saucerful Of Secrets--except that here, the drums are phased..so it sounds like a monstrous hail hitting the outside of a dome. Screams and high-pitched tones are added to the mix, and they appear at random, which can be a shock when you hear it for the first time. At Amazon.com--a couple of the reviewers said that they used to trip on LSD and listen to this through headphones...which I would not recommend, unless you want a "bogus psychedelic journey", not an "excellent trippy adventure". For all of that, though, I would recommend "An Electric Storm" for it's sheer experimental value and the fact that major labels would actually release stuff like this once upon a time, knowing that they may not make a gigantic profit from it and cater to a marketing-research poll. I believe the CD is still in-print on the 3-D/Island Special Products label..and it is possible to order it from Amazon, or you may find a copy or two on eBay. See ya soon!