Sunday, October 18, 2009
Whitehouse, BIRTHDEATH EXPERIENCE
Come Organisation, 1980; reissued by Susan Lawly; available, but tends to go in and out of print
6 tracks, 32:49
With this short album, Whitehouse were introduced to the world. At this stage, Whitehouse was William Bennett, Peter McKay, and Paul Reuter (this would be the lineup for TOTAL SEX and BUCHENWALD as well). Nowhere near as abrasive as the Bennett-Best-Sotos years, this may be the only Whitehouse album that could be called "charming" without any sense of irony. The comparitively minimal nature of this album is reflected by the equipment used: two EDP Wasp synths (legendary for their unique sound and mercurial nature, and one of which was modified by Throbbing Gristle's Chris Carter), a tone generator, and an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man. "On Top" begins with some low feedback and squiggling synth noises, soon joined by Bennett's heavily reverbed vocals. His delivery is far less intense than it would later be, and he actually sounds slightly meek at times! The music, however, is anything but tame, constantly and subtly mutating over the six minute duration. Oddly enough, four out of the six tracks are just over six minutes; whether this was intentional isn't certain. "Mindphaser" has Bennet's vocals much lower in the mix, buried under a fuzz-and-feedback drone. On this track, that works to his benefit. He keeps intoning for the listener to "relax/elax/listen to the master/you like that/FEEL THE PAIN/and pleasure" etc. etc., and the effect is DEFINITELY not as unsettling now as it may have been twenty-nine years ago, but it's still an interesting (if flawed) track. "Rock and Roll" closes side one with some random yet strangely musical explorations, held together by the tone generator's steady pulse. Over this, Bennett delivers the album's most intense vocal performance, screaming his anger at the fallacy of rock for all to hear. Side two features another three songs in a similar vein. "The Second Coming" sounds like the best parts of side one combined, while "Coitus" is the noisiest track on the album. Then there's the title track, which closes the album and is the shortest track at three and a half minutes. It's also completely silent, not even containing the sound of tape hiss or vinyl playing. Whether this is a waste of space or a stroke of genius is up to the listener, but after playing this album it's certainly not unwelcome! As stated above (and as most of you probably know already), Whitehouse would go on to become one of the harshest groups in electronic music, coining the term "power electronics" and delivering such endurance tests as ERECTOR and MUMMY AND DADDY. BIRTHDEATH EXPERIENCE is a crucial look at their early years, even if it is rather tame by their later standards. It's also worth hearing to see how Whitehouse were influential in their own way on later strains of industrial and noise music.