Year of Release: 2006
Label: The Laser's Edge
Catalog Number: LE1049
Total Time: 51:32:00
White Willow have done it again; released a fabulous album that is just a joy to listen to. This time out, on Signal To Noise, it's a mix of early White Willow - some progressive folk elements heard on the first two or three albums - and more recent White Willow - the heavier rock elements heard on 2004's Storm Season. There's a new vocalist, too, as vocals are now being ably and beautifully handled by Trude Eidtang; w worthy successor to the long standing Sylvia Erichsen. And as usual, the musical mix is textured, layered, and artfully rendered. I really think each track is gem - the signal to noise ratio here is all signal, no noise. Easily topping my best-of list for 2006 (late though that list will be).
Eidtang's light, breathily whispered voice caresses ears, sometimes intimately close -- for example, in "Night Surf," where Ketil Einarson's flute completes the audio seduction begun by Eidtang, whilst keyboards percolate, and bass gently throbs. And her voice becomes heartbreaking in "The Lingering," a piece that features a searing guitar solo from Jacob Holm-Lupo -- of the Gilmour/Rothery type full of emotion and import. Oh, but this willow is does not wimper, as we also get to hear her soar in full voice, too, where on "Night Surf" it provides a contrast that builds tension wonderfully; on "Lingering" it's verily smoldering, full of passion. The vitality and energy in this piece - from all corners - makes it one of my favorites.
My second favorite track is "Dusk City," which at first percolates like mid-period Marillion (strip away the vocals and you'll hear what I mean) - oh, but that's a starting point and not at all why it's my favorite. When we get into the meat of the song, Eidtang attacks full bore and takes prisoners only to tease them with her acrobatic vocals here. The confluence of watery keyboards and bubbly flute keep everything on simmer while the seduction happens? oh no, she doesn't need to snarl and gnash to ensnare the victim? you catch more flies with honey, they say. That isn't what the song is about, by the way, just the result of her tour-de-force vocal performance. No, the aggressor of a sort here is the city?
"The Dark Road" has a classic feel to it; one of those pieces that I think will be a fixture in their live set henceforth (make sure you have a lighter?). It is a mellow folk piece with lots of shimmering guitar, which gives way momentarily to a percussion/keyboard lead passage. Though not a cheery piece, the atmosphere is warm, despite the references to cold in the lyrics (which, as throughout, are poetically penned by Holm-Lupo).
No the "cheery" piece role is held by "Joyride," an accessible piece that could easily fit on radio, somewhere next to the Cranberries? well, when there were Cranberries? Eidtang doesn't utilize the glottal-like stops that characterized Dolores O'Riordan's vocals, but there is a childlike? well, youthful? exuberance in the delivery; a sing-songy style that paints a happier picture; it's freewheeling and moving (which underscores the driving imagery in the song).
There are three instrumentals on offer here, too. The first is "Ghosts," a skillfully rendered dark tango that hints at the macabre and yet also finds something thrilling about this dance of death. "Chrome Dawn" is the second, a sultry guitar centric piece, with hints of piano and spacey keyboard washes? though soon keyboard parps with carnival-like abandon, yet also manages to sound understated. It is Pink Floyd-like as played on jazz guitar with a ? smoldering fusiony feel (perhaps that hint of distortion and the subtly overdriven keys in the background). The third instrumental is a brief pastoral piece built around acoustic guitar.
This isn't a happy album; there is a dark tone or undertone to every track. The closest might be "Joyride," but it's a stretch. But, you'll sure be darn happy you picked it up and added it to your collection. Get out the thesaurus and look up all the synonyms for wonderful, and then apply them to this album! Highly, highly recommended!
PS: forgot to mention the equally fab "Splinters"... falls in the breathy, intimate category.
Night Surf (4:12) / Splinters (8:36) / Ghosts (5:48) / Joyride (4:18) / The Lingering (9:25) / The Dark Road (4:17) / Chrome Dawn (7:12) / Dusk City (6:05) / Ararat (1:35)
Trude Eidtang - vocals
Lars Fredrik Fr?islie - keyboards
Jacob Holm-Lupo - electric and acoustic guitars, e-bow, additional keyboards
Marthe Berger Walthinsen - bass
Aage Moltke Schou - drums, percussion, glockenspiel
Ketil Einarsen - woodwinds
Ignus Fatuus (1995)
Ex Tenebris (1998)
Storm Season (2004)
Signal To Noise (2006)
Genre: Progressive Rock