There is an unwritten law in music aficionado circles, one which has served us all well regardless of era, genre or whether you sample seagulls on your album (of which more later). It is this, the more members in your band, the less interesting you become. That’s a fact pop pickers.
You want evidence? Simon and Garfunkel, Daft Punk and not forgetting the immortal Peters and Lee. All magnificent. On the flip side we have Showaddywaddy and The Polyphonic Spree. You take my point, I’m sure. Scientific studies have demonstrated that four is the optimum number of members for any popular beat combo.
White Noise Sound are a psychedelic sextet from Swansea and you try saying that after a night on the Jagerbombs. In other words, there are six of ‘em and as with any band with a surplus of members I worry about the internal dynamic and whether the overall effect is being watered down like a cheap supermarket lager.
In 2010, White Noise Sound released their debut eponymous album, nine tracks of Spaceman 3 inspired fuzz and fury which brooded and badgered its way into cranium. It was reminiscent of dark, humourless nights in South Wales basements surrounded by the stench of stale Brains. Quite frankly, the band had something. So why has it taken a further five years for White Noise Sound to resurface? Has there been too much conflict within the band, are they a bunch of musical perfectionists or is just too damn hard to record a seagull in full flight (yes, I’m coming to that).Whatever the reason, eight tracks in five years really should have them marked down as ‘must try harder’ on their end of year report card.
‘Like A Pyramid Of Fire’ kicks off where their previous offering left us, ‘Heavy Echo’ buzzes along promisingly with Dan Henley’s vocals being barely audible through the fuzz-fest. He really should be known as The Mumbles Mumbler. This is what I was expecting, but then we get a complete gear shift from here on in. ‘Bow’ drops the mood down instantly as the band head off into the direction of Primal Scream circa XTRMNTR as Henley mutters about the sun and shadows before lifting us back up again with ‘Can’t You See It’ which is uplifting St Etienne fare, all light, airy and with the hint of high summer.
So three tracks in and already you can sense my fears can’t you? There is no consistency to this album, it feels as though everyone wants to contribute something wholly different and whilst I applaud their desire for musical progression, this is almost too much, too soon.
So it continues, by the time we arrive at ‘Red Light’ we have come full circle. Almost. This is choc-full of dirty guitar riffs, a great track to drive to, which would give BRMC or Jesus and Mary Chain a run for their money. Again, the vocals are so far down in the mix as to be inaudible. If Henley has something to say, well, he’d be better off sending me an e-mail.
However, all of a sudden, without any forewarning ‘Step Into The Light’ plonks itself into your earholes. It’s beautiful. Seriously. OK, I admit that starting a track with the unsettling and familiar sound of waves on a beach and seagulls crying in the breeze isn’t necessarily a well-trodden rock cliché but it works. What follows is 6 minutes of strings, trumpets and breathless vocals which builds as slowly as the Catthorpe Interchange on the M1.
It’s a lament, a genuine heartfelt plea and it stands in sharp contrast to the lack of personal emotion elsewhere on the album, a paradox in its personal message and simplicity. It actually comes as quite a shock.
Unfortunately, the spell is soon broken by the seemingly sitar-laden ‘Do It Again’ which is again, completely off-kilter with what has come before. Finally, and rather exhaustingly, we are treated to some early 90s techno on ‘Feel It’, a mass of loops and repetition which had me half hoping Mr C would suddenly appear and remind us just how good E’s are.
When all is said and done, ‘Like A Pyramid Of Fire’ is still a psychedelic record. But the lack of any consistent narrative just confused the hell out of a simple soul like me. Perhaps that is precisely what White Noise Sound are trying to do, create confusion and continually challenge your ideas of who they are and what they should be. If so, well done guys, it worked.
It took me several listens and a fair amount of patience but I’ll be fascinated to see where the ‘difficult third album’ takes them next, I’m just not sure I can wait another 5 years to find out.