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Whitewater - Obscured by the Sun CD (album) cover



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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Cascading forth onto the merry shores of progland, the aptly-named duo Whitewater embark on an interesting voyage of sounds and sparkle that should raise of few eyebrows. Stuart Stephens is the main musical conduit with drummer Paul Powell providing some muscular beat support. Their first album 'The Sound of a Galaxy Smashing' was a splashy dive into progressive rock that Stuart humorously describes as a marmite sandwich, either you love it or hate it. This second offering is assuredly much closer to the musical control they envisioned for their craft, a densely electric album that has a peculiar metallic edge. With a cloudy title like "Obscured by the Sun", they certainly stamp some Pink Floyd-isms into the mix ("In the Beginning") but truth is there is a whole lot more going on, as evidenced by the throbbing compressor "Rush", a pure space-rock adventure that hearkens back to the hard-dreamy material proposed by bands such as Sensation's Fix, with a less over- produced sound which is quite appealing. Big drum beat anchored by a trembling bass rumble, shattered by shimmering guitar screeches that saturate and satiate with manic insanity. A hushed voice maintains the push into deeper realms of cosmic bliss. A delectable piece indeed.

The melancholia-laden "Fallen Angel" proposes a metronome beat and intense psychedelia, within relatively simple parameters, a solid platform for a fuzzed guitar outbreak, all shrouded in this special metallic mist. Moody and serene, there is a strong sense of foreboding doom and despair. The leaden "Ordinary Life" follows the same approach, a mammoth beat with jangly guitars and a fierce lead solo, there are all kinds of weighty messaging going on, the axe tone more reminiscent of Tony Iommi or Gary Moore, raging, oily and utterly provocative.

The majestic 9 and a half minute title track is clearly Floydian in influence, a modest lilt that haunts and pacifies, a delicate and insistent piano motif that hides a deep sense of longing, glittering electronics and choir-like effects only heightening the inner malevolence . A clamoring beat kicks in to shove this into the stratosphere, fuzzed anger wrapped around intense sparkle , almost like something Canadian band The Tea Party would come up with (but without the Jim Morrison vocals) . The return to the forsaken theme is a sublime move, seeking to reenlist ones approval and enjoyment. This is a stunning track that surely characterizes this UK band very well. By Jove, I think they got it, screamed out Henry Higgins!

While daring a title like "Breathe" may be a little snarky, there is little similitude to any darker side of the moon, just a little experimental ditty that resonates with profound echo, both from the cottony voice and the fizzling axe. Foreboding, almost toxic and then spasmic, the tortured guitar screams and howls out of er...breath!

This duo excels in the longer pieces, giving themselves more expansive room to ruminate musically and the 8 minute long "Black Light Effect" is no exception, with Bonham-like pummeling from Mister Powell, distortion-laden keyboards, raw bass and slashing guitar rants. The unintentional winks at Sensation's Fix are actually quite rewarding, a spacey style that combines many contrasting elements into one.

A couple of circa 5 minute tunes make an appearance, the sad "Disengaged" coming first up to the plate, another uncomplicated affair that seeks out familiar melancholic territory and a killer guitar solo. The groggy "Without You" is the unjoyful ballad, guitar paining, yearning and panting, the bass obviously disappointed and Powell does slam hard, one of the finer short tracks.

"Fade Away" is the megalith epic, a whopping, nearly 17 minute venture into cosmic journeying, this time putting the synthesizers front and center in a way more symphonic/space rock framework. The pace is unhurried in development which gives Stuart the opportunity to show off some considerable compositional skills. Eventually, the gloomy guitar barrage kicks in with the Bonzo-like drum cannonade, the bad-ass bass raging with authority, stamping their now quite obvious style onto the arrangement. Imagine liberal doses of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Hawkwind as well as eccentric synthesized walls-of-sound effects and you get the picture! A floating mid-section only serves to confirm the talent displayed here, a new band still searching for a clear and permanent identity. Stuart then unleashes an extended fret board foray that screeches and cajoles with the best of them. Within the tempestuous sonic confusion, a new section throttles through the clouds, a deadly rampage full of metallic anger and rage, as both Stephens and Powell kick into turbo-charge. Smartly, the piece ends in a kaleidoscope of sweet sounds and ecstasy. A seductive suite that will please any music fan.

The book ends with "The End" and it fizzles out, synthesized droplets whirring inexorably into the cosmos.

My only slight complaint would be a clearer and punchier vocal recording, as the music's general heaviness is at times overbearing for the microphone stand. I tried to imagine a more polished affair and I came to the conclusion that their 'less is more' style is actually way more interesting. The longer pieces are easily worthy of any progfan's attention, especially if one enjoys that "homey" touch. This is what the future looks like, boys and girls!

4 Solar Oblivions

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Posted Monday, March 31, 2014 | Review Permalink

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