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Friday, March 31, 2017

White Willow - Future Hopes

It’s been six years since we’ve heard from White Willow after the release of their sixth album, Terminal Twilight. So far, the band have released six albums going from 1995 to 2011. Their music is dark, haunting, folky, and psych-progressive. And with supporters from Mikael Akerfeldt and Lee Dorrian, they have been very busy with other projects. With projects including Three Winters and The Opium Cartel, the question I always wonder is, what will Jacob Holm-Lupo will think of next?

Not to mention his work on Alco Frisbass’ sole self-titled debut release two years ago on the AltrOck/Fading label. But I’m off-topic. This year, they have released their seventh album on the Laser’s Edge label entitled, Future Hopes. And it is a welcoming return for the band. Taking over Sylvia Skjellestad is Venke Knutson for the lead vocals. She has top 10 hit singles from 2003 to 2010 along with three albums and a compilations album.

Venke's vocals is not bad. Yes there will be lines divided in the sand whether they will accept her or not but it doesn't matter. She's got it done and delivered the goods to White Willow's music. And throw in some guest musicians including; Guitarist Hedvig Mollestad, The Low Frequency in Stereo's own Ole Ovestedal and Clarinet player David Krakauer to name a few, it is a perfect match, perfect combination, and a perfect team.

And of course, the amazing artwork done by Roger Dean himself. The 11-minute piece In Dim Days is one of their darker compositions beginning with a ‘80s futuristic synth/electronic intro. Venke’s soothing voice sends a tone of destruction and no chance to come home of what was, has turned into a wasteland. Hedvig brings the experimental sonic Floydian-landscapes along with Jacob while Mattias Olsson does incredible work on the drums.

Very laid-back and not all over the place. But you have to give Mollestad a huge amount of credit as she is on fire whilst hitting the high notes as if her guitar is crying out in pain. The music is set in the styles between Vangelis and Tangerine Dream from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, followed by Pink Floyd’s Keep Talking and Annot Rhül’s Leviathan Suite in the last 2-minutes.

Pixel’s own Ellen Andrea Wang’s Bass exercise and Ketil shrieking flute work, close the composition. Where There Was Sea There Is Abyss is Ole delving into the deep, deep waters of the Frippertronics and the Mellotron for this short little instrumental Crimson-sque composition as it segues into A Sacred View that clocks in at 18-minutes. 18-minutes of music?! Holy shit!

Hedvig herself never disappoints me. The first 2 minutes and 54 seconds is the keyboards delving in mysterious ambient voyages as the movements of the tide go back and forth while the title-track which opens the album, begins with the keyboards opening up the pearly gates for the sun rise on a new beginning and a new day as Silver and Gold brings to mind an alternative acoustical balladry waltz done in 3/4 time.

There are two bonus tracks on here including their magnificent take of The Scorpions Animal Magnetism which dives into between Mike Oldfield meets Tangerine Dream featuring an intense clarinet work by David Krakauer while Jacob brings a sombering essence of Damnation Valley. I love how he takes the synths and piano to the dark depths inside a village turned horribly wrong. Not only that, but he knows his influences and inspirations very well as he pays homage to Rush’s The Camera Eye from his keyboards. And he nailed it bit by bit.

I have listened to this 16 times now. And I was very impressed on how White Willow have accomplished for 24 years and they keep surprising and always move forward to see where the yellow brick road will lay ahead for them. With Future Hopes, I’ve mentioned this earlier, it is a welcoming letter to let the fans know that they’re back and they hope they will keep the flames burning and never let it burn out.

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