(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Recording review - White Rabbits, Milk Famous (2012)

Cathartic mix of repressed tension and dissociation

While much of the indie scene lies under Spoon's sonic shadow, White Rabbits have been inextricably linked to the band. Spoon frontman Britt Daniel produced White Rabbits' last album, It's Frightening. For Milk Famous, they brought in Spoon producer Mike McCarthy. But despite this umbilical connection, White Rabbits have grown into their own sound. Milk Famous has a coherent feel that's moved away from the atavistic beats of their last album while stepping deeper into darkness.

The album is full of repressed tension, that's barely reined in. The opening track, Heavy Metal sets the mood. The steady electro-funk beat is trance-like but there are shards of clashing noise that hint at a dissociative mental state. The post-rock vocals feign indifference, but the song's mental state is unbalanced. Like the sound of battling an addiction, the song just tries to maintain against an insistent compulsion.

Milk Famous offers a varied selection of tension, distraction, and disconnection. Reflecting our times, it's satisfyingly cathartic. Along the way, several tracks stand out. Hold It To The Fire evokes an older Radiohead vibe, with a sidling bass line challenged by a glitchy whining tone. I love how it develops into Beatlesque psychedelia. Are You Free sets a staccato post-punk groove to a mildly electronic beat, with nice repetitive guitar fills. Danny Come Inside pushes the post-punk feel into jam that's equal parts late Joy Division and early New Order. The bass drives the song relentlessly forward, but there's an undercurrent of a speed hangover.

After this exploration of suppressed angst, the final track contrasts like a refreshing sorbet. I Had It Coming surrenders the fight and sinks into acceptance. The sonic embellishments still intrude but now they're less threatening, like remnants of a Wilco session. The poppy vocals, choppy guitar, and sweet piano fills offer comfort and acknowledgement without denying the rest of the album.

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