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White Noise - An Electric Storm CD (album) cover

AN ELECTRIC STORM

White Noise

Progressive Electronic


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars In the world of electronic music, I can hardly think of an album that was so groundbreaking and precocious than White Noise's Electric Storm. Indeed the project joined three incredibly inquisitive and inventive musicians such as German-born Davis Vorhaus, locals Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire, who later were of The BBC Radiophonic Workshop fame. Also a part of the project, jazz drummer Paul Lytton and several vocalists, White Noise cut An Electric Storm in 1968, released on the groundbreaking Island records. Without any proper synthesizer per se, the album relied heavily on complex tape edits and eerie sound effects.

Well AES is not just about electronic loops and effects, but it also relies on a solid dose of goofy British pop weirdo-ism (one that Frank Zappa would've approved of) and a certain sense of minimalism, even if there is plenty of stuff going on simultaneously in the music. Beit pieces like Love Without Sound, My Game Of Loving (don't be fooled by the track names), the electronic loops and tapes are wallpapering the sonic spaces behind far-reaching vocals that can stretch out to sexual moans or nutcase wailings. The madness continues with Here Comes the Fleas and Firebird (nothing to do with Igor) and the quieter Hidden Dreams.

Over the early-Floydish flipside, renamed Phase Out (as opposed to the A-side's Phase In), the madness doesn't stop but changes somewhat from shorter goofy tunes to a more serious experimental sound over two lengthier tracks, opening with the aptly-titled 11-mins Visitation , which sounds like a cosmic storm visiting the confines of your brains. This is clearly the album's centrepiece with the vocals taking on a second role, but remaining poignant enough (there are weeping bouts) to keep you riveted to the edge of your seat. The closing 7-mins Black Mass Electric Storm In Hell could just come out of Floyd's Saucerful Of Ummagumma album, where Lytton's drumming evokes what Nick Mason would do in a few months in Secrets or Setting The Controls Of The Heart Of The Sun. But it's not just about the drumming, there are Waters-ian scream, Wright-ian knob-twiddlings and Barrett-ian lunacy involved.

Well this album should come down like An Electric Storm over the electronic-minded progheads, although the sheer wackiness of the album should please Zappa, Beefheart fans and Moondog or even Terry Riley followers. In either case, passing through AES session should not leave anyone unscathed and should send your sanity up the zaniness ladder all the way up to volume 11.

Report this review (#761903)
Posted Saturday, June 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars "I use voices a lot too, but not as conventional vocals. I always use a lot of voices, and if somebody having an orgasm in the background is used as part of one of the waveforms, it makes the sound more interesting, without the listener actually knowing what they're hearing." - David Vorhaus, White Noise/The BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Another forgotten classic. In this mindblowing, amazing trip from the late 60s, you will open your eyes to the revolutionary electronic (without any synth) music by late members of The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, including Delia Derbyshire, a pionneer and master of the tape manipulation techniques. Brian Hodgson, Delia Derbishire, and David Vorhaus management to create sound effects is superb. These works features Paul Lytton on drums. An Electric Storm has the unique capacity to bother your senses in a relaxing way. Most of the tracks are calm when they are singing. The vocal lines are pretty catchy. But listeners will please the unexpected with the dark atmoshperic unknown presence made by sound textures and emulation of soundbanks. Edited tapes of intruments playing to sound like violins. Noises. Random voices of people laughing, screaming, crying and having sex in the most innapropriate moments.

Side A: Phase-In - The album cames from a totally different root, but eventually fell into the avant-psychedelic territory. You will notice the psychedelia in the very few minutes: Love Without Sound. This first track is a musical mushroom paradise. The noisy intersections makes a contrast with the easy mood and desperate anger. The song is followed by the erotic My Game of Loving, and then, the psychedelic experimental rock Here Comes The Flea, featuring great female vocals, one of my favorite tracks, highly reccomended to Gong and similar artists fans. Firebird is a great track, as well. The A Side is closed with the four minutes proto-shoegaze of Your Hidden Dreams.

Side B: Phase-Out - Here we are, the lenghty track. The Visitation. Twelve minutes of insanity. The track follows a line to play the lyrical part, then distorts them with the brilliant magic of the tape edition method, causing strange vibes between the chorus. The last moments of the album (the lenghty track called The Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell) is very similar to some Einstürzende Neubauten records: harsh yells and almost industrial noises. Well, in the case of White Noise, there are corrupted soundwaves seeming drills and jackhammers. This track features a jazzy drum solo and a thriller feeling.

An Electric Storm is a knockdown. This disturbing soft album was ahead of it's time using vintage recording effects by manipulation. Come on and take place in the White Noise obscure trip!

Report this review (#1083324)
Posted Friday, November 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
LearsFool
COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars In '68, three bands all coincidentally experimented with primitive, self constructed oscillators to create some of the same electronic sounds Stockhausen and friends had been working with since the '40's, and now to be done in the context of popular music. Because of this, only twenty years later we had the first techno. But, more pertinent to us here on PA, we had four great albums cut, and we got Tangerine Dream out of it two years later. And, the third, final, and British one of of the three bands, White Noise, had both the best of the four records of the first pop electronic groups, and perhaps the most influential. Not just EDM and prog electronic sprung from this, but industrial. Side One is Phase In, and features the more warm, gentle, psychedelic side of the band's sound. The music is fun and relaxing, with nice singing and voices of pleasure. The sound is also much smoother than that of the other two bands, Silver Apples and The United States of America. All this changes going to the other side, Phase Out. This is the first industrial, at least six years ahead of its time. The music turns dark, the vocalists start screaming and crying, terrifying sounds come out of nowhere. The two tracks on this side have their comparatively relieving sections, but they are still just off, and a creepy narrator haunts us. There are the chants of a black mass. A man's screams become the cries of a demonic machine. "The Visitation" and "Black Mass" still stand as two of the best pieces of industrial ever put to wax. "An Electric Storm" as a whole, then, is the spring of countless genres and more than a masterpiece in its own right. This makes for a heck of a listen.
Report this review (#1320858)
Posted Saturday, December 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars WHITE NOISE was an interesting electronic band from London, UK that was started by the American David Vorhaus who was both classically trained as a bassist and had a connection to electronic engineering. After hooking up with a couple members of Unit Delta Plus which was one of the innovators of tape manipulations and experimental electronic music, they decided to create a couple tracks intended to be released only as a single but after Island Records caught wind of their goings-on, they were persuaded to release an entire album's worth of material. So meticulous were these guys that that request ended up taking them a full year to complete and only completed the last track in a day when Island insisted on releasing the album. Finally in the summer of 69, AN ELECTRIC STORM was released.

This is fun music and not nearly as freaky as i had anticipated. It is firmly placed in the 60s and will instantly bring The United States Of America to mind with its swingin' sexy bachelor pad type of loungy exotica. The music may not be freaky (all the time), but the electronic embellishments are fairly sophisticated for the day. The production is excellent considering the year and the inventiveness justifies the time allotted to its creation. The album is basically divided into Phase-In (tracks 1-5) and Phase-Out (tracks 6, 7). The first phase being basically an electronically doctored up version of a Herb Alpert or Tom Jones type of feel, while the second phase venturing into the extremities of psychedelic electronica that would totally feel at home next to Pink Floyd's "Saucerful Of Secrets" and the early Krautish psychedelia of Pärson Sound. However, even on phase two it doesn't always get to full-on freakout mode at least until the very end. There is usually a melodic insertion to remind you of the time period therefore this album does feel like a product of its time, but i hardly feel that it is a bad thing. Some music serves the purpose of bringing an era to mind and AN ELECTRIC STORM achieves that for sure.

Personally i'm not quite as taken by this as many others and i prefer the album by The United States Of America which was released the previous year for it had more memorable 60s melodies and offered a lot of the same kind of electronic explorations, but WHITE NOISE does up the ante in the psychedelic department on phase 2 with some truly innovative electronic wizardry that can take you to the moon like Apollo 11 and then back to the the more terrestrial swanky grooviliciousness of 60s pop culture. This is a brilliant album certainly and highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the continuation of early electronic pioneers of the 50s such as Stockhausen and also utilizing the algorithmic composition systems of Gottfried Michael Koenig but also as a proto-progresive electronic album that would eventually fuel the Berlin school sound. Definitely an innovative album for the time but unfortunately WHITE NOISE waited a full six years for a follow-up and in the fertile late 60s / early 70s they were quickly surpassed in their innovation. Still though, this one album keeps them relevant in the rich history that encompasses the progression of electronic music.

Report this review (#1425879)
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars White Noise's first album as a collaboration between producer and effects wizard David Vorhaus and the electronic wizards Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson of the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Derbyshire is mostly famous for being the composer of the iconic Doctor Who theme music, and the Radiophonic Workshop's electronic hums and buzzes not only defined the sound of television science fiction in the UK for decades but, both through influencing young musicians and through side projects like this, made major contributions to the development of electronic music in general.

The album forms a strange bridge between the psychedelic pop of the era (particularly with the short-form pieces on side one) and the improvisational freakouts of the early Krautrock scene - just listen to Visitation and Black Mass and then tell me you can't hear the seeds of, say, Brainticket's Cottonwoodhill. Emerging in 1969. it's a startlingly ahead-of- its-time release that deserves a reappraisal in retrospect. Numerous electronic jam sessions from the likes of Tangerine Dream or Ash Ra Tempel or Cosmic Jokers would come on the heels of this release - but precious few would exceed the standard set here.

Report this review (#1789912)
Posted Monday, October 2, 2017 | Review Permalink

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