White Reviews

Bagatellen

“White” is an unusual, often frustrating, sometimes aimless but occasionally very beautiful recording. Essentially a single 77-minute piece (though divided into seven tracks), it’s also in some ways almost a solo effort. While the bulk of the sounds derive from Krutogolov (credited with “bass with bow”, strings, voice, keyboards, objects, flute, birds “…”), Yariv Talmor’s “rain” makes up a substantial component of the piece time-wise. Ido Azaria is also credited for bells.

But let’s back up. “White” comes in a handsomely designed package with the image of a tree and grazing horse printed in very light gray on a white background. Inside, there’s an eight page booklet with the tree on the front and back, the interior six pages…all white. Well, OK, getting twee on me here, but we trudge onward. It opens with a dreamy mélange of sounds: a sort of Riley-esque organ, rain, thunder and random scrapings, most prominently a carillon-like tone whose quasi-melody is very reminiscent of an early Art Ensemble piece I can’t quite put my finger on, maybe a portion of “The Spiritual”. A flute enters playing languidly, perhaps a mandolin, sounds of children playing–all very pastoral, settling into a space somewhere between Bryars and the Penguin Café Orchestra, though far looser than either. When an (artificially?) high voice appears, the music teeters dangerously on the precipice of sappy and it balances there for much of the first three sections, really just wallowing in the goo with nothing much happening. But just when you’re about to give in to exasperation, suddenly things congeal in the fourth track, the keyboards layering gorgeously, the accompanying chatter of flutes beginning to make “sense”. The whole thing takes on much the character of a John Cale piece circa “The Academy in Peril”, except with the richness of arrangements heard in someone like Simon Fisher Turner. It’s a very attractive combination. Audible weather returns and the work subsides a bit for the fifth portion, more or less returning to the sounds of the opening, but about midway through the sixth track, heralded by a far-off child’s cry that has been resurfacing throughout, some beautiful, ethereal strings appear, again reminding me of some of Turner’s work (say, on the “Last of England” soundtrack) but even more romantic and evocative, embedded in rain. The strings intensify and deepen, producing a strikingly effective slab of sound until Krutogolov suddenly pulls out the rug.

The final section takes up fully half the disc, some 38 minutes. After a little bit of the by now familiar ringing tone and the odd tootle of a flute, we’re left with almost only the rain, which continues pretty much through the concluding half hour. There is a very faraway voice singing, you hear the flute now and again, but gradually it’s just the rain, waxing and waning. The drops actually disappear entirely at a couple of points, returning a bit more hushed the first time, with muffled thunder the second. It’s a risky gambit as the sound itself is simply laid out there bare. Attractive enough on its own, when considered in conjunction with the music that came before, both the aggravatingly meandering and the romantically passionate, it somehow works. Not a yin/yang, black and white deal but two (or more) surprisingly related tones of gray.

If the stalwart listener can be patient, “White” offers unique rewards. Not your typical electro-acoustic mishmash by any means, it’s an eccentric offering that surprises as much as it annoys. Worth a shot.

Musiquemachine

Israelian busy bee Igor Krutogolov has yet another project on his hands which is in many respects the opposite of his band Kruzenshtern i Parohod. The artwork of White is very much what the title indicates: white. Musically, it’s not that sparse, but still the music is quite smallsounding and very atmospheric. The seven untitled movements are always calm and serene, with the sound of rain as a recurring element. The album feels very much like a pleasant dream. A dreamy, swirling organ functions as drone similar to an Indian tambura. That sound will be the flying carpet, so to speak, on which you will be taken on an interesting trip. Some parts, like the third movement, have a playful feel similar to the the ambient excursions of the The Boredoms. This will be augmented by medieval stringwork and harpchords, that have the ancient sense of some of Arvo Pärt’s work to it. Ceremonial bells tingle and flutes chirp like birds while you can imagine yourself in a garden, which is finally getting the rain it had been thirsting for and soon everything will blossom up and fill your nostrils with heavenly scents. Then, in part seven, all sounds slowly disappear until your left with the sound of the rain. The friendly drone music reminds of (partly) Icelandic projects like Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sigur Rós and Eyvind Kang’s Virginal Co-ordinates, so if you enjoy those I’d recommend this. If you don’t know any of them I’d recommend them all, on top of this one.

Vital WeeklyFrom Israel comes Igor Krutogolov, who is besides
a musician also the designer for Topheth Propeht. Apparently he is mostly known for his ‘klezmer core’ project Kruzenshtern & Parohod but also a ‘toy orchestra’ Igor Krutogolov’s Karate Band as well as various collaborations he has done with people like Chaos As Shelter, Agnivolok, Bastard Noise, Tidal and Darkwood. For ‘White’, which comes with a booklet with white pages (funny or arty) he plays bass with bow and strings, voice, keyboards, objects, flute and birds and gets help from somebody playing bells and someone delivering a tape of rain sounds. Divided into seven parts, this is however very much one piece. The musical theme’s re-occur in every track, the rain sounds return every now and then. The label compares this is to Colin Potter and Andrew Liles, which, especially in the case of Liles, I can see some parallel. The drone like sounds form the backbone of the piece and with irregular intervals, real instruments are added. Unlike Liles however, Krutogolov doesn’t dwell that much of sound effects, and rather uses them in a more natural sounding way. Quite hypnotic and engaging at times, this is surrealist music, with a built in tension that keeps lurking around the corner, and the listener is waiting for something to happen. Wether or not it happens I won’t reveal, but it’s a pretty strong CD. (FdW)

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