Review Summary: Unique, ground-breaking, bizarre, weird, insane, trippy, creepy, odd, quirky 60s avant-garde electronic psychedelia. A must for fans of experimental music and especially Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.White Noise
were one of the first bands, along with the equally inventive Silver Apples
, to mix psychedelic pop music with experimental electronic music, managing to create An Electric Storm
in 1969, a totally unique album that is truly completely ahead of its time, much more than most, if not all, albums described as being so.
White Noise at the time consisted of David Vorhaus, who continues to record under the name today, Paul Lytton on percussion, three vocalists and Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Derbyshire was the person who arranged the Dr. Who theme into its famous (in the UK at least) eerie and (for its time) futuristic electronic format, and Brian Hodgson was in charge of creating much of the programme’s sound effects using all sorts of bizarre techniques - the sound of the TARDIS for example was created by dragging house keys over the strings of an old gutted piano, and then electronically manipulating the sound.
It is with similar methods to this that An Electronic Storm
was created from. The group used tape manipulation techniques, with an original sound being played, often on Vorhaus’s bass, and then slowed down or sped up to create a new note. This was repeated for every single note before they were all painstakingly placed together. One song in particular, ‘The Visitations’, took 3 months to finish in this way. To create echo effects two identical tapes were played slightly out of phase.
Unfortunately An Electric Storm
was released just before the introduction of the Moog synthesiser which made many of the innovative ground-breaking techniques used to create this music pretty much obsolete by making electronic music much easier to create. However, the unique way in which it was made makes An Electric Storm
sound totally different to anything else. Yes, it is obvious the album is from the 1960s, the compositions are quirky trippy psychedelic songs not that unlike those of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd
and the album is filled with now completely cheesy sound effects but it still manages to sound fresh, as if a modern band was trying to imitate the style of 60’s psychedelic bands with modern techniques.
Even though it was all basically copied and pasted together, the melodies are totally fluid, weaving in and out of each other totally smoothly and effortlessly, giving much of the album a very relaxed feel. Different effects cover the album, fading in and out constantly. Nothing on the album sounds at all rough and despite the experimentation the tunes are often very catchy. An Electronic Storm
is split by the first side, named Phase-In and the second side, Phase-Two.
Phase-One contains the more poppy, light-hearted psychedelic pop tracks, often with Syd Barrett-influenced lead vocals. Luckily, White Noise are not at all pretentious despite the experimental music, retaining a quirky sense of humour. This is especially noticeable in the cheesy yet hilariously insane ‘Here Come the Fleas’, featuring zany female singing and lyrics and a collage of more edits than the entire Sgt. Pepper’s
album. Another bizarre part of the album is ‘My Game of Loving’ which features the sound of an orgy(!) along with chaotic drumming in the middle of the song.
At this point of the album you might think you know where it’s going, but as soon as Phase-Out starts the sound and atmosphere changes completely. Gone are the pleasant poppy tunes of Phase-In, replaced by a much heavier, creepier and darker sound. ‘The Visitations’ is one of the highlights of the album, a haunting song about a biker dying in a crash and his spirit trying to speak to his lover who is with him at the time. While it can be genuinely quite creepy, the age does show and it is also slightly cheesy. The final track, ‘The Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell’ was written in a rush to finish the album on time. Instead of writing another conventional song however, the band used little more than a powerful barrage of percussion and weird sound effects, creating a similar ‘scary’ atmosphere to ‘The Visitations’. It sounds great even though the sound effects are slightly similar to the sounds made by those toy laser guns...
An Electric Storm
is one of the most unique and ground-breaking albums ever created, blending avant-garde electronic music with very well composed and memorable songs. It is a huge shame that it never got the recognition that it deserved due to the introduction of the Moog soon after its release, which also prevented another similar album being made in the future. White Noise II - Concerto for Synthesiser
(1974) and White Noise III
(1980), played only by David Vorhaus and created in a much more conventional and less experimental way, actually sound far more dated despite being released years later. A must for any fan of psychedelia or avant-garde music.