The White EP
is the second and final installment in a pair of connected EP’s, the first being Agalloch's 2004’s The Grey EP
. As the band puts it, this EP is “the stylistic counterpart to The Grey”. It’s interesting how, above all else, the band connects two EP’s, not full length albums. However, The White EP
shows how you can write a dark folk/ambient album which is simply mesmerizing. The whole album is absolutely drenched in atmosphere, because that is the main focus of a nearly entirely instrumental album, and for you to do an album like this right the first point which must be put across is an atmospheric tone which will carry throughout the album.
Like they have done so many times before, Agalloch simply nail the atmosphere portion of this album. You have completely contrasting tracks like “Birch Black” and “Birch White”, as well as standalone epics like “Pantheist” which incorporate a trick or two to completely catch the listener off guard. Take the middle of “Pantheist”, for example. At about the 3:50 mark, you have acoustic guitars picking slowly away at a smooth atmospheric riff, but all of the sudden an extremely low guitar sweep just slaps you in the face and rips the song almost into another world. Just like that, you are taken from what can be described as loneliness and peace to pain and darkness. The instruments don’t take you by themselves, either. The vocals on this album come in three tones, whispered, spoken, or chanting. In “Birch White” you have a half spoken/half sung vocal aura which meet you as the first actual vocals in the entire album. It really adds a lot of variety to the album, and I don’t think that The White EP
would stand the same without these small vocal touches.
Everything is captured in this rather long, 36 minute EP. You have the slower, more melancholic tracks like “Pantheist”, the mid-paced and rather angry tracks like “Birch Black”, and the hopefulness of songs like “Birch White” or “Sowilo Rune”. The album feels extremely complete, it has a defined and clear beginning, and a fitting, noteworthy end. From the eerie opening clips of children chanting “We carry death, out of the village” onward, you know this is an Agalloch release, and you know that the amount of despair and darkness will only get more prevalent as the album lingers onward. Every single instrument here just breathes this emotion, the acoustic guitar, the piano, the electric guitar, synths, harp, horns, and bass all capture the exact feeling which Agalloch was going for with this release.
I find The White EP
quite a misleading name. When you think of white, you think of hope and happiness; however this album portrays close to nothing of the sort. This is an album for sadness and depression, this is an album for loneliness and hate, and there is no way a listener can come out of this album without any one of those feelings. Agalloch is a band which buries itself in your mind; it is a music which evokes thought and reflection. This album is certainly an Agalloch album, there is no doubting that, but there is something else here, something I have yet to identify. It is there, looming in all the songs, the part which makes this more than just another Agalloch release. Maybe if you take a listen to The White EP
, you will know exactly what I mean.