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Whitehorse > West of the Sun / Ocean Turns to Black > Reviews > NausikaDalazBlindaz
Whitehorse - West of the Sun / Ocean Turns to Black

Music to celebrate the arrival of Hell on Earth - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 9th, 2007

Whitehorse play a very slow, dirgey improvised doo metal that is so heavy and seems so dense that if you tried to get a teaspoon of it, that amount would probably weigh a tonne. Both tracks on this private pressing were recorded live on two separate occasions in two venues in the group's home city of Melbourne, Australia, with two slightly different line-ups but with at least five members involved in both gigs.

"West of the Sun", the first track, takes a while to get going as a lot of improvised music tends to do, with a lot of whirling guitar whistling over head and enough pauses that you can hear people still talking in the background. Once the rhythm section finds its feet and starts moving the music proceeds at a slow and steady pace as though with a mind of its own. It builds up momentum relentlessly through constant, almost trance-inducing repetition and spacey effects, distortion and drones accompany the slow climb into a percussion break-out. The piece condenses into a series of wavering drones and whistles, and explodes with agonised human screams and pounding drums and cymbals. Imagine a desert hellhole in which the last members of the human race, ravaged by endless nuclear wars and plagues, are forced to take refuge and find themselves trapped by storms in a sand and stone tomb and you have an idea of the desolation and chaos of this part of music. The track collapses in screaming high-pitched guitar noise agony and self-destructing percussion hysteria. Feedback drones screech and keen long enough to break all human endurance.

While "West ..." is more in the realm of noisy rock improvisation and features some very experimental drone guitar, the next track "Ocean turns to Black" is more like doom metal with definite guitar riffs and melodies, and toys less with sound for its own sake. The music is more in company with bands like Boris and Corrupted. Again, the track takes time to move forward but move it does with solemn sledgehammer riffs and rhythms. The vocals are more prominent this time round, they have echo added to them and are very scary and desolate. There's an atmosphere of hot scourged landscapes where constant fires have removed all plant and animal life and hot corrosive rains fall from toxic acid clouds that scud across a burning red sky. The music changes halfway through with a passage of guitar feedback and for a time the mood changes to something a little lighter and more hopeful with a series of gentle melodies. We then come to another build-up of mood involving a quickening pace, more screaming, solid rhythm and pounding drums which all climax in driving and booming guitar work. The coda is very spaced-out and ambient.

For improvised music these tracks are well-structured and thought-out, and single-minded with very few breaks where the music just manages to hang together. When breaks do occur they have the effect of condensing the music and forcing the listener's concentration so that when the music expands it goes off in a different direction and takes its audience with it. Each track is over 20 minutes long but there's enough variety that you won't be bored and the musicians maintain momentum so the music, while sprawly and chaotic, is not a huge mess as improvised music sometimes can be.

If your next birthday party has to take place in an underground nuclear bunker because the air and surface soil are radioactive from all the bombing and the dumping of toxic wastes, this album would be suitable party music. Music to celebrate the end of the world and the consignment of humanity to Hell on Earth: I don't think there would be many other soundtracks as funereal as this and at the same time appropriate in this age of global climate change and warming.