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An Electric Storm

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Album Review

An Electric Storm is justly renowned among techno boffins as one of the first albums to fuse pop and electronic music before the advent of the Moog synthesizer. But you don't have to be versed in the language of sine waves and oscillators to enjoy this mostly delightful and hugely inventive album. For although the White Noise were almost exclusively composed of virtuoso knob twiddlers and tape splicers moonlighting from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, luckily they were no slouches when it came to penning a decent tune. There's also anarchic humor at play on the manic "Here Come the Fleas," which contains more edits in its two minutes than the whole of Sgt. Pepper's.Yet it's the retro-futurist textures that still grab the ear most. These are sounds that will be familiar to anyone who knows the soundtrack of Forbidden Planet or the early series of Doctor Who, but they had never before been deployed in the service of pop music, nor have they since. And whereas the Moog would supplant all of these primitive, time-consuming techniques of sound generation and manipulation within the year, it also destroyed much of electronic music's spirit of adventure in the process. How could you boldly go where no man had gone before when your sound universe was suddenly overlaid by tram lines and route maps? So although most of the songs that make up the first half of An Electric Storm are pretty much your standard-issue polite British psychedelia (the somewhat embarrassing United States of America-style orgy of "My Game of Loving" aside), the way they're dressed up still sounds innovative decades later. Sometimes songs dissolve into bleeps, whooshes, and gurgles that hurtle between your speakers, but compared to the extended guitar and organ solos that were common currency at the time, they are the very essence of restraint. That said, restraint was put to the sword on the final two tracks, the 12-minute "The Visitations" and the seven-minute "The Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell." The former is a decidedly spooky "Leader of the Pack"-style drama with a supernatural twist. The biker, having departed this life, attempts to make one last attempt to cross over and console his grieving beloved, only to fall agonizingly short. If you can suspend your disbelief — and persuade yourself that the biker's departing spirit doesn't sound like a cappuccino machine — it's spine-tingling stuff that you won't dare listen to with the lights off. Which is more than can be said for the concluding track, a would-be satanic jam session botched together in a hurry to meet Island's suddenly imposed deadline.

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

By the time White Noise's debut album, An Electric Storm, arrived in 1969, the Moog synthesizer had already started to make tentative appearances on pop records by the likes of the Monkees and Simon & Garfunkel. More primitive tone generators had also provided spacy effects for bands like the United States of America. But no other pop or rock...
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