This is a great band from Tewkesbury, UK, Whitewater has now four releases under their belt and each one is a brilliant facet of their work and efforts in the world of Prog. The track above is from the Lp of the same name, “Obscured By The Sun“. Lengthy and PROGarific to the edge of the envelope. Their album , “The Sound of a Galaxy Smashing” is an epic composition of sight and sound and will definitely capture your attention.
They have certainly earned their stripes in every album they have put out with the exception of the all instrumental record, Raison d’Etrefrom last year. It is I have to say a bit of a step down from their previous albums, still great music but missing the vocal aspect of it and that I found to hurt their album somewhat. Perhaps it was more of an experiment in sound to which I can not complain coming from these musicians. One of the great things with WW is that they keep their music very concise in the tempo in which they play. They aren’t too fast or too slow but right in the middle and shift gears when necessary at the right time. With songs at great lengths and certainly a huge Pink Floyd influence as well as many others in the genre , Whitewater has garnered enough attention that they will continue and carry forth the Prog torch along with the other bands of today that wear the Prog emblem with pride.
Their music has a precise and reliable tone to their sound that assures us that they mean what they play. Never a dull moment with Whitewater’s music. I find that they use an impressive echo effect on their vocals in almost every song to one degree or another which gives the ambiance to their tone a great compliment. Like a lot of today’s Prog this band has paid homage to their Prog heroes and have clearly has spent a considerable amount of time huddled around the record player spinning old copies of Meddle, Ummagumma, Animals, & A Saucerful of Secrets etc, all of which can be heard in ghostly fogs over their music and that Whitewater has made it happen that you think of these albums and other Prog bands when you play their music but you never lose your grip on what you are listening to. Simplified effects through the guitar and the rest of the band give it a primarily clean sound of instrumentation gives a solidified tone of clarity and forthright musicianship.
Their music is intense as much to listen to it as I’m sure it is for them to play. Sometimes it takes a few listens to in order for one to grasp what the band is trying to convey in and through their music but with this band it was an immediate connection of like and appreciation. I’ll be honest and say I’m disappointed I haven’t found any bootlegs of them playing live as yet because I’m certain that they would put on an epic live performance. It’s easy to compare a lot of what they do to other bands similar and I believe that they will continue to do their own thing and create what inspires them from their records prior and who they listen to.
Whitewater needs that vocal element in their music, one or two instrumentals is acceptable but I have always found with Prog music that the more instrumental you get the tad boring it becomes, at least for me because it depends on the band. Case in point, Tangerine Dream who are one of the very few bands that can go all instrumental and get away with it, and meant to be so in that hypnotic space like way where bands like WW are better suited to be a vocalized band because their vocal tracks compliment the music aspect of it as well as the vocalist has a great voice for their tone. So many other Prog bands have amazing music but as soon as the vocalist opens their mouth it’s game over, well, again, for me. I am not a fan of that operatic vocal styling that has plagued many of the newer bands lately and really, for some time now. It’s a killjoy for me and no matter how good the music is, if the singer starts in with the opera style singing then I just can’t do it. Same goes for bands like, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest for me, I can’t get passed it and my metal is up for discussion some other time! Whitewater’s vocalist is a key element and amazing tone to their sound and an imperative facet to their sound!
Their other three albums are key records to any PROGgers collection and regarded as crowning achievements to the annals of Prog Rock. probably still in the shadows of the outer regions of the Prog world but they are slowly creeping through the weeds and becoming a strong force to be reckoned with musically. They move like the rotation of a planet and stir up storms of sound that definitely keep you grounded on terra firma! The Ep “Slipstream” is a five song strengthener to the “Obscured By The Sun” record as it has only one song that carries over, Breathe. The title track, Slipstream I have played to the point where my record would have warped by now and I still hail it as one of my favs by the band. Very curious to see what they release next as no two albums are alike in the progression of how the songs are aside from their mid range speed of their music. The tone is a signature sound of theirs and they should maintain that as much as they can as well as exploring newer avenues as well.
Whitewater is definitely an impressive force in the world of Prog Rock and will continue to be so until they decide to call it a day which I hope is a long ways away! Their influences have played a key role in helping them design their sound and then their own twist on things making it an even better overall sound for them. Surely a band you want in your collection and will play many times over!
Cascading forth onto the merry shores of progland, the aptly-named duo Whitewater embark on an interesting voyage of sounds and sparkle that should raise of few eyebrows. Stuart Stephens is the main musical conduit with drummer Paul Powell providing some muscular beat support. Their first album ‘The Sound of a Galaxy Smashing’ was a splashy dive into progressive rock that Stuart humorously describes as a marmite sandwich, either you love it or hate it. This second offering is assuredly much closer to the musical control they envisioned for their craft, a densely electric album that has a peculiar metallic edge. With a cloudy title like “Obscured by the Sun”, they certainly stamp some Pink Floyd-isms into the mix (“In the Beginning”) but truth is there is a whole lot more going on, as evidenced by the throbbing compressor “Rush”, a pure space-rock adventure that hearkens back to the hard-dreamy material proposed by bands such as Sensation’s Fix, with a less over- produced sound which is quite appealing. Big drum beat anchored by a trembling bass rumble, shattered by shimmering guitar screeches that saturate and satiate with manic insanity. A hushed voice maintains the push into deeper realms of cosmic bliss. A delectable piece indeed.
The melancholia-laden “Fallen Angel” proposes a metronome beat and intense psychedelia, within relatively simple parameters, a solid platform for a fuzzed guitar outbreak, all shrouded in this special metallic mist. Moody and serene, there is a strong sense of foreboding doom and despair. The leaden “Ordinary Life” follows the same approach, a mammoth beat with jangly guitars and a fierce lead solo, there are all kinds of weighty messaging going on, the axe tone more reminiscent of Tony Iommi or Gary Moore, raging, oily and utterly provocative.
The majestic 9 and a half minute title track is clearly Floydian in influence, a modest lilt that haunts and pacifies, a delicate and insistent piano motif that hides a deep sense of longing, glittering electronics and choir-like effects only heightening the inner malevolence . A clamoring beat kicks in to shove this into the stratosphere, fuzzed anger wrapped around intense sparkle , almost like something Canadian band The Tea Party would come up with (but without the Jim Morrison vocals) . The return to the forsaken theme is a sublime move, seeking to reenlist ones approval and enjoyment. This is a stunning track that surely characterizes this UK band very well. By Jove, I think they got it, screamed out Henry Higgins!
While daring a title like “Breathe” may be a little snarky, there is little similitude to any darker side of the moon, just a little experimental ditty that resonates with profound echo, both from the cottony voice and the fizzling axe. Foreboding, almost toxic and then spasmic, the tortured guitar screams and howls out of er…breath!
This duo excels in the longer pieces, giving themselves more expansive room to ruminate musically and the 8 minute long “Black Light Effect” is no exception, with Bonham-like pummeling from Mister Powell, distortion-laden keyboards, raw bass and slashing guitar rants. The unintentional winks at Sensation’s Fix are actually quite rewarding, a spacey style that combines many contrasting elements into one.
A couple of circa 5 minute tunes make an appearance, the sad “Disengaged” coming first up to the plate, another uncomplicated affair that seeks out familiar melancholic territory and a killer guitar solo. The groggy “Without You” is the unjoyful ballad, guitar paining, yearning and panting, the bass obviously disappointed and Powell does slam hard, one of the finer short tracks.
“Fade Away” is the megalith epic, a whopping, nearly 17 minute venture into cosmic journeying, this time putting the synthesizers front and center in a way more symphonic/space rock framework. The pace is unhurried in development which gives Stuart the opportunity to show off some considerable compositional skills. Eventually, the gloomy guitar barrage kicks in with the Bonzo-like drum cannonade, the bad-ass bass raging with authority, stamping their now quite obvious style onto the arrangement. Imagine liberal doses of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Hawkwind as well as eccentric synthesized walls-of-sound effects and you get the picture! A floating mid-section only serves to confirm the talent displayed here, a new band still searching for a clear and permanent identity. Stuart then unleashes an extended fret board foray that screeches and cajoles with the best of them. Within the tempestuous sonic confusion, a new section throttles through the clouds, a deadly rampage full of metallic anger and rage, as both Stephens and Powell kick into turbo-charge. Smartly, the piece ends in a kaleidoscope of sweet sounds and ecstasy. A seductive suite that will please any music fan.
The book ends with “The End” and it fizzles out, synthesized droplets whirring inexorably into the cosmos.
My only slight complaint would be a clearer and punchier vocal recording, as the music’s general heaviness is at times overbearing for the microphone stand. I tried to imagine a more polished affair and I came to the conclusion that their ‘less is more’ style is actually way more interesting. The longer pieces are easily worthy of any progfan’s attention, especially if one enjoys that “homey” touch. This is what the future looks like, boys and girls!
4 Solar Oblivions
Review by T Szirmay, Progarchives.com, March 2014
Shaun Geraghty, The Prog Mill, Stafford Radio.March 2014
Whitewater’s ‘The Sound of a Galaxy Smashing’ is the first musical statement from a duo of astute musicians from England, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Stephens and beefy drummer Paul Powell. The former is a jack of all trades, fluent on guitar, keyboards, bass and vocals while the latter has a drum style closer to bashers such as Bonham, Roger Taylor, as well as presumed cousins Cozy Powell and Alan Powell (Hawkwind). What’s in a name, eh? Must be the genes.
The single greatest gift that prog has brought to the music world is eliminating the ‘rat race’ and blind obedience to record companies (who have somewhat become redundant), as amateur musicians who have day jobs (Lawyers, entrepreneurs, architects, doctors, mailmen, waiters etc…) now can record and distribute their music thanks to modern technology and the Internet. In many cases, the talent is off the charts and is created purely for humanistic and not capitalistic reasons. All it takes is one fan, somewhere out there, half-way around the world who appreciates the effort, for it to be all worthwhile. Paraphrasing the Bible, ‘He who delights one person, delights all of humanity’.
This album is quite a revelation, certainly for a debut album, as it’s definitely more experimental and atmospheric than its successor, the punchier ‘Obscured by the Sun’. There will be some who will, too conveniently, toss this into Pink Floyd-influenced territory, which is an easy and quite unstudied way out. Yes, it has loads of melancholia and special sonic effects but so did the Beatles! However, there are major differences in stylistics, Stuart preferring a clanging guitar sound that is closer to non-household names Franco Falsini (of Sensation’s Fix) or Like Wendy’s Bert Heinen rather than Gilmour, especially the rhythmic and acoustic work on this somewhat ‘purer’ recording. His vocals are not Floydian clones but his own personal style which is in a higher register and very occasional, as the focus is on the dense atmospherics and the elastic arrangements that are deliberately kept natural. The production is clear and crisp, albeit often unpolished, which is an added attraction (except for the rare heavy parts which I mention further on).
Three monsters epics are definitely the highlights here for any intrepid prog fans. Opener ‘I’ll See you Someday’ (you can dedicate this to me, Stuart! Hahaha) is an absolute mood setter, putting down the letters of introduction to their burgeoning career in Progland. Carpeted with assorted effects such as telephone ringing, the quintessential baby cries, screeches, pings, beeps and booms, the arrangement creates a highly cinematographic concoction of contrasting moods and images. The drums pound in like depth charges, splashing ever more psychedelia and flower-power confetti, recalling ‘2000 Light Years from Home’ (the only Stones song I ever liked). Great vocals, amazing atmosphere and delirious simplicity. Then, the unexpected bruising kicks in with grungy, oily, nasty and heavily echoed voice. Cling, clang and pastoral ruminations on the guitar. A Walter Cronkite- like voice introduces a nuclear risk proviso that suggests hiding behind a desk or wall (Err’). British humor, Stuart?
The 17 minute+ behemoth ‘Wrong Way Round the Left Bend’ is a brisk affair, the initial ambient storm shimmer morphs into a monolithic pace that is fuzzed out by trebly arpeggios, deep sonic valleys and searing upward spirals as witnessed by the Falsini- esque guitar solo, a pure delight to any guitar fan. The finale gets hot and heavy, as Stuart shows of his affinity and respect for Iommi, Young and Moore. This is perhaps my favorite Whitewater track of all, a psychedelic space ride that does not fail to impress.
The romantic-inclined ‘Only to You’ spans 10 minutes of forlorn sadness, a somber piano motif colors the crying clouds, Stuart voicing his inner pain with soporific conviction. Despondent, hopeful, hypnotic at first, precipitously exploding into a gut-wrenching hard blues stomper (Yes, Paul!) but unfairly muddied by barely audible vocals (the only small caveat I can opine for both albums) when the music gets heavier. However, the echoing piano is utterly simple and gorgeous, something out of Roger Eno’s catalog. The voice gentle flutters over the careening piano chords in sheer reverence to the meaning of the song.
The short tracks are incredible fun as well, the glittering ‘Stardust’ oozes with unrelenting angst, snarling guitars and colossal drums, the whole attractively punky, messy and noisy. ‘Rainbow Bridge’ initiates another stylistic nod to Falsini both in the chiming rhythmic riffing as the blissed-out, effect-pedaled scorching lead electric solo. Echo, fuzz, obsessiveness and delay, all the tones are there to enjoy. Adroitly, Paul boom-boom-tchaks nicely and muscles the mood along. The fragile ‘Aura Dreamscape’ professes nothing more than to further the cottony gleam, piano and guitar licking each other with glee, highlighting their experimental tendencies with finality. More voice effects samples are added to the mix. A gentle fade away.
Comparisons to early Sensation’s Fix albums (Fragments of Light and Portable Madness) are absolutely vivid, though Whitewater has its own very original style. The gorgeous cover art only coronates this fine effort even more, a phenomenal work on its own merits.
4 exploding universes