Since the announcement of White Willow’s new album Future Hopes which is coming out this Spring, I almost geeked out. For me, White Willow have and will always be one of my favorite progressive rock bands that came out of the ‘90s in Norway. From their psychedelic-folk to progressive and harder materials, they can do no wrong in my book. Jacob Holm-Lupo is the glue that keeps the White Willow train rolling. And despite line-up changes, he makes sure that they never stop and keep the fires burning.
They have combined the sounds between Mellow Candle, Genesis, Renaissance, and King Crimson in their sound with a bit of a story structure. The first four albums along with Terminal Twilight have been on my old portable CD player and sometimes when I go either for a morning/afternoon walk or the Gym, they keep me comfortable and relaxed. I’ve delved into their fifth studio album released back in 2006 entitled, Signal to Noise released on The Laser’s Edge label.
This is a diverse album. Here, White Willow moved away from their psych-folky sounds into a dark, heavier, and progressive approach which in my opinion may have divided a line in the sand whether they accept it or not. When I listened to this album for the first time, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to it. Believe me, my introduction to their music was on Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room and reading about them in PROG Magazine when I was in College.
But I’m off-topic. The second or third time I’ve listened to it, I fell in love with it. I like to see bands/artists go into different directions. Yes it may upset people, some people love it some people hate it, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, yes there is going to be a divided line in the sand, but I’m not one of them. For me, Signal to Noise it’s a step forwards and an accomplishment release 11 years ago.
Trude Eidtang who sings on the album, does an incredible job bringing the fire and energy that is brought to the forefront. She has this combination between Anneke Van Giersbergen, Tori Amos, and Kate Bush. The opening track, Night Surf is a gothic symphonic approach as the sounds of guitars, flute, and mellotron as the music builds up before delving into an essence of early Within Temptation.
The instrumental track, Ghosts is Jacob delivering the darker forces through his guitars as the haunting melodies with it’s different time signatures and the spooky moog and Brazilian guitar touches and diving back into the Crimson-sque forces are very off the wall. Joyride features this poppy and alternative sound as the lyrics reminisce between David Bowie and Kate Bush collaborating together.
Trude resembles also a mellowing version of Sharon Den Adel which is evidential on the progressive-pop-hard rock texture Splinters. Mellowing ballads flow in well and guitar riffs and it gives them a chance to see where they will go next. It keeps the atmospheric moments on there for a brief while thanks to the synths, organ, and choir to be ready for a chance to fly into the clouds.
I love how Frosile brings his keyboards to help see where Jacob would lead into next. With Chrome Dawn, Jacob lets Lars comes center stage as he, Marthe Berger Walthinsen and Aage Moltke Schou, breathe light and delve into an oceanic swim as the moog improvisation and mellotron chords and Floydian-sque guitar melodies by Lupo takes us into the deep, deep dark night with imaging a pin dropping at the right moment.
I have listened to this four times now. And Signal To Noise may or may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but all in all it is one of their fascinating releases. It’s diverse, modern, heavy, and moving forwards, not going backwards. I can’t wait to hear what the band have in store for us this March with Future Hopes.