Review Summary: Hawkwind ditch their rock side entirely and embrace the techno Gods. Hawkwind – A trip through space, Part XIX Hawktrance
Hawkwind were never afraid to try something new, and in 1995 they decided upon a special project, which was different from anything else they had attempted up to that point. Under the name 'Psychedelic Warriors' they released a hard to acquire album named 'White Zone', which appears to be vastly different from all other Hawkwind albums before it.
On this album, Hawkwind appear as:
Dave Brock - guitar, keyboards
Alan Davey - bass guitar, keyboards
Richard Chadwick - drums
Dave Charles - sampler, OSCI
Rather than a fusion of rock and space, White Zone appears in the form of a completely space sounding record, with all rock parts shrunken down to a bare minimum.What the exact genre is, is complicated due to Hawkwind's ability to mis-mash several of them together at once, but on this record Hawkwind merge the techno and ambient genres, but how do they come across to the listener?
Straddling these two genres gives the album a rather unique 90s feel to it, and some of the tracks would not feel out of place on some futuristic style Playstation One game. Even though Hawkwind have dropped most of their rock moniker, there are still a few pseudo-rock moments to be found. For example, on 'White Zone' and 'The Search for Shangrila', you can still make out Dave Brock's very distinctive guitar work laced among the keyboards that have the majority of the albums attention span.
This mixture of genres means that Hawkwind have the potential to create a form of post-space rock. But unfortunately the album is not that well done, and on occasions it sounds rather repetitive rather than fresh. But luckily rather than attempting another full length CD, this album is trimmed down to a reasonable forty five minutes, which is more than enough time to dance around and play with you without overstaying its welcome.
On the album there are varying styles, for example 'Frenzzy' is quick, up-beat and full of life. The drums beat away passionately whilst the keyboards and guitar blare away in a sound that makes you want to go play wipE'out” all over again. On the other hand, songs like 'Window Pane' are much more calm and tranquil, with a simple rhythm section enhanced with keyboards and crafty guitar work. Even the drums have been given a makeover, sounding very electronic in style, with electic shockwaves reverberating as Chadwick beats them silly.
The crowning jewel of the album is its middle section. For twelve minutes 'White Zone' and 'The Search for Shangrila' will blast you away in all manner of spacey techno styles, keyboard whizzes and guitar screeches. The music is catchy in its own way, and strangely rewarding, before skipping off into the sunset before it begins to sound repetitive
But this doesn't last, and White Zone has several scarring flaws. Firstly it loses most of its focus and sense of direction towards the end, and the album wanders around aimlessly until it is put out of its misery. This album is also entirely void of vocals, so those people expecting those trademark acid trip style Hawkwind vocals will be sorely disappointed.
As well as this, it does begin to hammer home its repetitiveness as it draws to a close. Some of the songs like 'Frenzzy' seem to go on far too long and cover the same old ground, due to the amount of ambient music that graces this album. Whereas other songs are completely and utterly forgetful, and these subtract from what could have been a very interesting record.
Overall, this record looks as though there is nothing to tie it to anything else Hawkwind have done up to this point. Hawktrance seems like a brilliant, fresh and exotic idea. But when you look deeper you begin to see similarities. If you were to add more guitar work, increase the volume of the bass guitar and add some vocals. What you would end up with is any other Hawkwind record from the 90s. Which is, unfortunately, a period of time that was not great for the band.