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White Noise – An Electric Storm

by on March 31st, 2008

Long a legend among trawlers of esoteric musical experimentation, An Electric Storm, by the studio-based aggregation know as White Noise, has finally been given a proper reissue. Although this album seems more an interesting curio than a revelation it is still a must-listen for fans of 60′s rock.

White Noise was formed in London by classically-trained expatriate David Vorhaus, who, enthralled by the musical possibilities opening up in the pop-music scene, hooked up with like-minded electronic composers from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop ( including Delia Derbyshire, performer of the Dr. Who theme ). With the exception of drums and vocals, all the music here was generated electronically. While the Moog Synthesizer was ubiquitous at this time, used by everyone from Sun Ra to the Monkees, White Noise went  the traditional route of electronic composition, painstakingly splicing and mixing their materials using tape recorders and jerry-rigged equipment. After over a year of recording, the result was released in 1969 …. to an almost complete lack of interest, its subtleties perhaps finding no place within a scene becoming dominated by either Maximum Heaviosity or bucolic back-to-the-country trends.

Here in 2008 much of An Electric Storm sounds startlingly contemporary. What would have been side one in the vinyl era could be considered the "pop" side, 5 short cuts using conventional song forms. Sometimes early Soft Machine ( or late Zombies ) can be taken as referents, but I am reminded much more of Stereolab, or any number of other post-punk, post-modern bands that combine pop sensibilities with experimentation. Side 2 consists of 2 long pieces of a more abstract nature, "The Visitations", in which the narrator comes to the realization that he is dead ( sort of a spacy, muted, very British take on Bloodrock’s DOA ), and the concluding track "The Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell", which doesn’t quite live up to it’s title ( Hey, could anything? ), being basically an echo-enhanced drum solo overlaid with gratuitous noise and demonic shrieking.

While, unlike some of it’s enthusiasts, I can’t see this recording changing anyone’s life, I can still recommend this to any fan of the period, as side one particularly stacks up well against many of the more vaunted releases of it’s time.

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