Sunday, July 4, 2010


(Sensory Projects)
The funereal stomp underpinning many of the tracks on the début release from Melbourne’s White Woods seems to emerge from some distant rhythms beneath the bitumened streets of the city. There is a depth to the music here as if it has been composed while on a 3AM walk and channelled directly to analogue tape. Mo Tucker rhythms, strangled guitar slashes and melodic bass push the songs along and under the skin, never going for the jugular when an imperceptibly subtle increase in tension will do. Though the album has only seven tracks each is a different variation on the theme of what to these ears seems like personal isolation and urban desolation.

Far from being a depressing proposition, Bellplay is brightly mixed and Keith Mason’s keening slices of feedback and warping shimmers ease in and out of songs with an engaging unpredictability. The sad and propulsive chording are the musical highlight in their marriage to the vocal meters. Their pale distance allows the bass to meander and chime while the drums beat mournful tattoos.

Here’s hoping that the distant voices that occasionally colour proceedings don’t get too loud, that interviews and photos don’t tarnish the mystique that this albums so effectively builds. Perhaps it’s selfish, but this band is quietly making passages out from their firmly built walls and it’s bound to resound with a lot of listeners. There is a lot to like in here; the lurching beats and precise rhythmic accentuations that all instruments and vocals follow creating a dirty hypnotic swirl like a slowly approaching pavement to the face of a falling drunk as on Groundswell and Sea Sickened. Elbows and Kneebones begins with surely the slackest-sounding Phil Spector-beat ever recorded. While there is little of true originality to begin with, the twists and turns taken by the players ensure that what may begin as familiar becomes weirdly compelling, somewhat similar to a dream of being buried by an avalanche in slow motion, it’s sad and impenetrable but bleakly beautiful too.

Though unlikely to get much airplay and win fans over with live performances, White Woods are an interesting group for the atmosphere the album makes and the subsuming of personalities by the relentless force they make as a whole. A layered and well-recorded début.

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