White Noise – An Electric Storm

White Noise - An Electric StormAn Electric Storm is the adventurous debut album by a British outfit called White Noise. Even if the group is new to you, its members are familiar names: White Noise was a collaboration between electronic musician David Vorhaus and BBC Radiophonic Workshop members Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire, doing a little bit of work on the side. Originally, White Noise set out to record a single only: two songs. Island Records insisted on an entire album of material… and unfortunately, that’s where it started to go downhill, rapidly.

An Electric Storm starts out promisingly enough, putting the two most interesting numbers up front. “Love Without Sound” and “My Game Of Loving” were the A and B sides of the originally planned single, showing off the concept behind White Noise very well: to apply the working methods of the Radiophonic Workshop to something that was intended, from the outset, to be a pop song or two. Even these two songs aren’t without issues, however. “Love Without Sound” has a fantastic, mysterious feel, with vocals that anticipate the singing style of the new wave and new romantic genres by a good ten years, and “My Game Of Loving” isn’t bad either, with almost Brian-Wilson-esque vocals.

But both songs become novelty tunes with the addition of intrusive laughter on the former and orgasmic moaning on the latter. The “instrumental” backgrounds – and I used that term loosely since, as with Derbyshire’s famous version of the Doctor Who theme, few traditional instruments were used – are intriguing. Any album with Derbyshire and Hodgson involved would have been spectacularly well-produced at the very least.

Though I’m not as fond of the music, this leaves the relatively uncluttered “Firebird” and “Your Hidden Dreams” as the gems of this album. “Here Come The Fleas” takes things firmly into novelty song territory.

The last two tracks on An Electric Storm are wanna-be epics that wind up weighing the whole endeavour down. “The Visitations” clocks in at over ten minutes, and few of those minutes stand out as interesting music, while “The Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell” is a noise montage with track after track of overdubbed screams, resulting in a piece that, quite frankly, I’d be happy never to hear again. Legend has it that the trio cranked out the two longest tracks in the shortest amount of studio time simply to fulfill Island’s demands for a full album. An Electric Storm in hell, indeed: it’s almost as if the group made a deal with the devil and was in a hurry to get out of it.

To be blunt, An Electric Storm is really the A and B sides of two decent, if trippy, singles, and a further collection of filler material that’s not worth the time (and keep in mind, very few times in theLogBook.com’s Music Reviews has it ever been said that anything’s not worth at least one listen for curiosity’s sake). There would’ve been no honor lost in just doing a four-song EP – and my opinion of this collection minus the three filler songs would’ve been 2 out of 4raised considerably. White Noise actually continues to this day, having released an album each decade since An Electric Storm, though most of the “group”‘s output since this album has been Vorhaus on his own; Derbyshire and Hodgson went their own way following this album. It’s a pioneering piece of electronic pop music, but the artistic achievement isn’t quite on par with the technical prowess on display.

Order this CD

  1. Love Without Sound (3:07)
  2. My Game Of Loving (4:10)
  3. Here Come The Fleas (2:15)
  4. Firebird (3:05)
  5. Your Hidden Dreams (4:58)
  6. The Visitations (11:14)
  7. The Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell (7:22)

Released by: Island Records
Release date: 1969
Total running time: 36:11