Wednesday 17 April 2013

Whoarfrost - You Say Yes

Album review by

'You Say Yes' doesn't come with a warning, but if it did it would certainly aim to deter the average Coldplay listener. It is at times challenging, harsh and uncompromising music. Its head in the clouds of '7's prog and psych, and at times avant-garde and free-form. But deep rewards are there for those who want to listen. 'Gangnam Style' this ain't! Whoarfrost bring us into their world in a close to conventional way; with the opening handful of minutes of 'Absolutely Not'. Rich vocals and compelling guitar takes you into the song. Singer Jon Lipscomb has strong echoes here of Alex Turner in his delivery, that is where the Artics comparisons end. As it evolves, the track becomes looser limbed, edging to the Zappa with a frenetic, shredding break as Whoarfrost start to push you into those boundaries. The song ends with a QOTSA raw, screaming, motorik climax.

'Mister Smith' is less forgiving than the opener. All frenetic turns and noise filling every corner of the song. Its brutal lack of melody forces the listener down a somewhat harrowing path, with very little to cling onto for structure. Some may argue that 'Mister Smith''s lurching and pounding is conformity being broken, but we all need to have some foundations to be stable upon. By contrast, third track 'Pinta' opens with dirge-paced blues, but not to bring any sense of convention Whoarfrost proceed to whitewash any space left with stark sound. 'Pinta' then mutates into some dark funeral march, Doors-like at their most strung out. Grinding and grating, they spiral into an epic of barely-controlled white noise, bringing to the mind's eye how Icarus must of felt heading closer to the sun, feeling the relentless heat melt his wings and the ultimate plummet to the ground.

Title track 'You Say Yes' is 'A Clockwork Orange' rampage. A jerking, brutal soundtrack to white boiler suited Drooges punishing society. All off-set rhythms, forms and wayward drums. Great musicianship does not always make great songs. And while Whoarfrost are never going to be played at dinner parties, and you need to check your head in at the needle's drop, there are moments when they can flail into pure noise and loose you and seemingly their own way. Here a blood-letting holler of "you say yes!" being the only root securing the song from abandoning itself. Then a welcome ease back with 'Sunshine'. With another primal blues lick and howl, feeding the song into a hot, sticky swamp. You start to wallow in the deep morass. Then just as you start to become comfortable 'Sunshine' becomes the sound of a nervous breakdown. A cathartic experience, but not one to share with your mother. The primal blues mutates into a proto-doom dirge, like a fledgling Sabbath. Then, when you least expect, Whoarfrost expose the sun, bringing up a Woodstock-ian vibe. The brown acid avoided and the peace pipe taken instead. Hendrix aping reverb echoes across the land tearing back the clouds. Now it's time to close your eyes and get lost into a luscious slow-jamming groove. The sun-kissed ride continues unabated and you realise the route so far has been worth it to get here. Even as 'Sunshine' breaks its groove, the vibe stays the same and you ride it for a glorious 10 minutes. When it finishes you are left wanting more and more.

After the epic ride of 'Sunshine,' the Mars Volta run of  'Blackout In A Can' is not so seemingly harsh as those at the start of the album. It dances around, again with glimpses of melody that binds the factions all together. And the peaking middle coda is an Zepplin-esque thrill, reminiscent of when those behemoths were at their loosest. 'Cow Eyes' finishes the whole trip. Bolting out with an '2112'-era Rush intensity. Far from being dull and lifeless as the eyes of the title suggest, a calming break of controlled feedback stalks into the song's second stage, by now the ride you have taken with Whoarfrost has become more rewarding than at first expected. Snatches of a star-spangled banner howl, napalm bursting drums and bowel shaking bass all lead to a uncompromising yet rewarding conclusion of both song and album.

Whoarfrost's website

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