|Whyte Horses — Pop or Not (6 May 2016)|
Whyte Horses — Pop or Not (6 May 2016) ★♠★ “A perfect mix of chiming 80s guitars and Beach Boys–esque ambience”. Manchester’s best kept indie secret have just completed a mini tour of the UK and have released a couple of singles from their debut album ‘Pop or Not’, which is due out in spring this year. Their sound is a perfect mix of chiming 80s guitars and Beach Boys–esque ambience and even a few songs sung in French — whatever sounds good. As well as the aforementioned tour under their belt already, they’ll be touring the UK and beyond upon the release of their album early this spring.
♠ For fans of: The Go! Team, Belle & Sebastian.Location: Manchester, England
Album release: 6 May 2016
Record Label: CRC Records
01 Pop or Not 3:03
02 The Snowfalls 3:55
03 Promise I Do 3:43
04 Relance II 0:44
05 Peach Tree Street 3:38
06 La Couleur Originelle 3:01
07 She Owns the World 2:06
08 When I Was a Scout 3:54
09 Elusive Mr Jimmy 5:17
10 The Other Half of the Sky 1:39
11 Wedding Song 3:01
12 Alone at Last 3:45
13 The Dream Before 1:40
14 Astrologie Siderale 2:13
15 Back to Earth 2:22
16 Feels Like Something’s Changing 2:24
17 Natures Mistakes 3:20Review
By Alan Ashton–Smith | first published: 5 May 2016 | Score: ★★★½
♠ Whyte Horses is the latest project of Manchester musician Dom Thomas, and Pop Or Not is the band’s debut. Originally released as a private pressing last year, it’s now getting a full release on small indie label CRC Records. This trajectory from wilful obscurity to relative unknown seems characteristic of Thomas’ relationship with music. As the co–founder of the Finders Keepers label, whose business model is based on crate–digging and reissuing obscurities from all over the world, he has brought many artists from complete darkness into mere shadowlands.
♠ Thomas has been described as a ‘music chronologist’: although it’s clear whether he would identify as such himself, that description neatly provides a kind of context for Whyte Horses while throwing up a few questions, not least the question of what a music chronologist actually is. There is something quasi–academic about that title, but the kind of character it conjures up is an obsessive record collector and a person intent on drawing connections between records that span diverse times and spaces.
♠ There is also a hint of mock pretension in there, and that’s reflected in the statement from the Whyte Horses Facebook page introducing the track La Couleur Originelle: “It is absolutely essential to listen to this track thinking about a huge modernist house and a small submarine being pulled by a string.”
♠ The album was recorded over three months in a cottage in Italy, and perhaps it has absorbed some of the atmosphere of that location, but there is no single sense of place. This is in part due to the contributions of singer–guitarist Julie Margat, who sings sometimes in English, sometimes in French. Margat, who has also recorded prolifically as Lispector, is from France, so the record’s bilingualism has an obvious explanation; but it also seems suited to the idea of the global crate–digging chronologist.
♠ There is also something distinctly Mancunian about it, most particularly in the two tracks that bookend the album, both of which recall The Stone Roses. The opener, Pop Or Not, is an instrumental in which jangly guitar crescendoes over an insistent drum beat; the closer, Natures Mistakes, is slower, with slight chillwave leanings, but definite baggy vibes. The Snowfalls has a similar mood, but is tempered with pastoral psychedelic moments, exemplified in the lyric: “We are clouds passing by, wandering the sky, blowing in the memories of our minds.”
♠ The Go! Team are another obvious reference point; this is explained by the involvement of that band’s lynchpin Ian Parton. His work is audible in Promise I Do, with its lo–fi sound, its energy, and the points where vocals and instruments share a melody line; and in the bell–like keyboard of instrumental Wedding Song. Elsewhere there are moments of what sound like ‘60s girl group pastiche (La Couleur Originelle), guitar–based vignettes (Relance Il; The Other Half Of the Sky), and lo–fi pop punk (Astrologie Siderale).
♠ Pop Or Not is a sprawling album — in this respect it calls to mind Badly Drawn Boy, who is connected to Thomas via his producer and collaborator Andy Votel, who co–founded Finders Keepers. This sprawl, and the admirable reluctance of the band to settle on a single genre, means that the album raises plenty of questions. But perhaps the biggest question raised is that of whether we should expect a follow–up album from Whyte Horses. While the record goes in all sorts of directions, its uniqueness means that a second album is hard to imagine. It seems more likely that Thomas will decide an another new project and do something different instead, so its worth enjoying Pop Or Not very much on its own terms. ♠ http://www.musicomh.com/
Whyte Horses: Night and Day Cafe, Manchester, ON 2ND DECEMBER 2015
♠ Lengthy silences and line–up changes have only added to Whyte Horses’ mystique, Getintothis’ James Sullivan saddled up for the ride.
♠ There’s something odd going on. Someone or something has rustled these horses. Just over a year ago, whispers abounded of a new band in town. A raggedy bunch of psych–heads with a French connection, conjuring up swirly 60s pop gems, possibly from a cottage in the Italian countryside, possibly from somewhere between Manchester and Liverpool. What were their names? How many of them were there? Is it possible to speak French with a Manc accent?
♠ A gig in February unfurled some of the mystery. The band smartly billed themselves as outsiders. The posters read: ‘Elbow are playing Manchester Apollo, so you should go and watch Whyte Horses at the Soup Kitchen’.
♠ Uniformed in black, wearing dark shades and led by an enigmatic French singer called Julia, they were streamlined and focussed.
♠ An album was imminent. They’d achieved a minor miracle in the modern age: mystery, intrigue and momentum.
♠ Then silence.
♠ A much delayed (and great) album Pop or Not did eventually surface, but there was an absence of either gigs or fanfare. Word had it that there had been lineup changes.
♠ So to a grey Wednesday night in late November at Night and Day. Now signed up with indie label and publisher CRJ Records, they’re finally on the road.
♠ The lineup change rumours were true. Dom Thomas — record collector and label boss at Finders Keepers — remains on guitar and at the helm. Laura Brownhill — former director of the Kazimier — is there too, bobbing behind a glockenspiel and tambourine.
♠ The notable absentee is Julia, with the siren–like Teta Mona instead standing front and centre at the mic; kohl–eyed and sparkle–faced, more swaying and huskier than her predecessor. The glitter and kaleidoscopic lighting emphasises the 60s California side of the band, rather than the occasional Krautrock tendencies of the record.
♠ But after all, a sunnier disposition suits these songs. And so they open with Astrologie Sidérale, a skyward–looking garage gem reminiscent of France Gall or Francoise Hardy.
♠ The Snowfalls, for a long time all people could find of them online, is a heady, Byrds–y jangle, full of verve and hope. So why does this all feel so stilted?
♠ There’s an edge in the air, a sense of nerves and lack of ease from the stage. But instead of levelling out it becomes infectious: the crowd seems restless and expectant, waiting for everything to slot into place. The band are admittedly ramshackle, but that shouldn’t matter.
♠ Great songs keep on coming regardless, although with the huge caveat that they’re only great if you already know them. Otherwise, the whole thing is just, well, a bit awkward. She Owns the World remains serene, La Couleur Originelle is a groovy, soul–flecked take on Os Mutantes.
♠ And those songs are, ultimately, what saves the night. They play for half an hour or so but most of the band seem so ill at ease, or nervous, or just not having a good day, you feel they would have preferred to play less. Maybe the change in personnel will take a while to bed in. Maybe it’s too soon to tell. Whatever it is, things just don’t seem ready and it’s quite uncomfortable to witness. Considering how fully formed they were almost a year ago, that has to be a backward step.
♠ It probably doesn’t really matter. After all, we’ll always have the record, right? Except we won’t, because it doesn’t seem to be available any more: physically or digitally. Uber–limited run? Pulled from the shelves? Who knows with this band. It should be that this type of mystery is refreshing in a band in 2015. But the nagging worry is that as time goes by and the less shrouded in mystique the band become, the more the wheels fall off. ♠ http://www.getintothis.co.uk/
|Whyte Horses — Pop or Not (6 May 2016)|