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Whitewater - The Sound of a Galaxy Smashing CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.08 | 12 ratings

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4 stars Whitewater's 'The Sound of a Galaxy Smashing' is the first musical statement from a duo of astute musicians from England, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Stephens and beefy drummer Paul Powell. The former is a jack of all trades, fluent on guitar, keyboards, bass and vocals while the latter has a drum style closer to bashers such as Bonham, Roger Taylor, as well as presumed cousins Cozy Powell and Alan Powell (Hawkwind). What's in a name, eh? Must be the genes.

The single greatest gift that prog has brought to the music world is eliminating the 'rat race' and blind obedience to record companies (who have somewhat become redundant), as amateur musicians who have day jobs (Lawyers, entrepreneurs, architects, doctors, mailmen, waiters etc...) now can record and distribute their music thanks to modern technology and the Internet. In many cases, the talent is off the charts and is created purely for humanistic and not capitalistic reasons. All it takes is one fan, somewhere out there, half-way around the world who appreciates the effort, for it to be all worthwhile. Paraphrasing the Bible, 'He who delights one person, delights all of humanity'.

This album is quite a revelation, certainly for a debut album, as it's definitely more experimental and atmospheric than its successor, the punchier 'Obscured by the Sun'. There will be some who will, too conveniently, toss this into Pink Floyd-influenced territory, which is an easy and quite unstudied way out. Yes, it has loads of melancholia and special sonic effects but so did the Beatles! However, there are major differences in stylistics, Stuart preferring a clanging guitar sound that is closer to non-household names Franco Falsini (of Sensation's Fix) or Like Wendy's Bert Heinen rather than Gilmour, especially the rhythmic and acoustic work on this somewhat 'purer' recording. His vocals are not Floydian clones but his own personal style which is in a higher register and very occasional, as the focus is on the dense atmospherics and the elastic arrangements that are deliberately kept natural. The production is clear and crisp, albeit often unpolished, which is an added attraction (except for the rare heavy parts which I mention further on).

Three monsters epics are definitely the highlights here for any intrepid prog fans. Opener 'I'll See you Someday' (you can dedicate this to me, Stuart! Hahaha) is an absolute mood setter, putting down the letters of introduction to their burgeoning career in Progland. Carpeted with assorted effects such as telephone ringing, the quintessential baby cries, screeches, pings, beeps and booms, the arrangement creates a highly cinematographic concoction of contrasting moods and images. The drums pound in like depth charges, splashing ever more psychedelia and flower-power confetti, recalling '2000 Light Years from Home' (the only Stones song I ever liked). Great vocals, amazing atmosphere and delirious simplicity. Then, the unexpected bruising kicks in with grungy, oily, nasty and heavily echoed voice. Cling, clang and pastoral ruminations on the guitar. A Walter Cronkite- like voice introduces a nuclear risk proviso that suggests hiding behind a desk or wall (Err'). British humor, Stuart?

The 17 minute+ behemoth 'Wrong Way Round the Left Bend' is a brisk affair, the initial ambient storm shimmer morphs into a monolithic pace that is fuzzed out by trebly arpeggios, deep sonic valleys and searing upward spirals as witnessed by the Falsini- esque guitar solo, a pure delight to any guitar fan. The finale gets hot and heavy, as Stuart shows of his affinity and respect for Iommi, Young and Moore. This is perhaps my favorite Whitewater track of all, a psychedelic space ride that does not fail to impress.

The romantic-inclined 'Only to You' spans 10 minutes of forlorn sadness, a somber piano motif colors the crying clouds, Stuart voicing his inner pain with soporific conviction. Despondent, hopeful, hypnotic at first, precipitously exploding into a gut-wrenching hard blues stomper (Yes, Paul!) but unfairly muddied by barely audible vocals (the only small caveat I can opine for both albums) when the music gets heavier. However, the echoing piano is utterly simple and gorgeous, something out of Roger Eno's catalog. The voice gentle flutters over the careening piano chords in sheer reverence to the meaning of the song.

The short tracks are incredible fun as well, the glittering 'Stardust' oozes with unrelenting angst, snarling guitars and colossal drums, the whole attractively punky, messy and noisy. 'Rainbow Bridge' initiates another stylistic nod to Falsini both in the chiming rhythmic riffing as the blissed-out, effect-pedaled scorching lead electric solo. Echo, fuzz, obsessiveness and delay, all the tones are there to enjoy. Adroitly, Paul boom-boom-tchaks nicely and muscles the mood along. The fragile 'Aura Dreamscape' professes nothing more than to further the cottony gleam, piano and guitar licking each other with glee, highlighting their experimental tendencies with finality. More voice effects samples are added to the mix. A gentle fade away.

Comparisons to early Sensation's Fix albums (Fragments of Light and Portable Madness) are absolutely vivid, though Whitewater has its own very original style. The gorgeous cover art only coronates this fine effort even more, a phenomenal work on its own merits.

4 exploding universes

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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