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Whitelodge - Whitelodge

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Artist: Whitelodge

Album: Whitelodge

Label: Beta-Iactam Ring

Review date: Oct. 4, 2005

Collecting the band’s 2004 LP with the Stream of Dreams EP from 2003, this digipack reissue adds one new song; the EP tracks have also been remixed for this release.

While boasting more sumptuous production than typical Current 93, that band would be the first touchstone for Whitelodge; Dustin Gilbert’s vocals often seem to channel David Tibet, as do the vaguely mystical lyrics. Gilbert, however, is far more expressive than Tibet’s limited, though effective, voice. There’s certainly no denying the general Gothic vibe here, which together with the acoustic instrumentation makes this feel like a cross between Windham Hill and 4AD (after all, one of the songs is called “Down the Ladder of Lights Towards the Gate of Erim”). Related artists like Death in June and Sol Invictus are also natural points for comparison, but simply applying the “apocalyptic folk” tag here would be facile.

Whitelodge follow a generally similar approach for these songs. Picked and strummed guitars provide the melodic basis, while spooky keyboards or echoing piano lurk in the background. Gilbert’s vocals are the focus of the songs, which otherwise tend to wander familiar territory for a bit too long. The 2003 songs, surprisingly, boast a fuller sound than the later ones. Their drums and occasionally fiery guitar boost them out of the lethargy that often plague the others.

The band’s willingness to experiment with Coil-like vocal manipulations, sound effects and electronic murmurings often raises this album above the mundane, but the songs still, in the main, fail to leave a strong impression. When the drums kick in on “They Are Seven,” it’s a bit unexpected, but they don’t ultimately succeed in taking the song anywhere. Things work better toward the latter half of “The Emperor’s Orchid,” when atypically dense fuzz guitar aids and abets the proceedings.

The 15-minute “Rites” naturally draws extra attention to itself, but is in some ways just several songs stitched together, linked only lyrically and not really musically. The initial guitar theme is memorable, though overused. Sadly, the previously unreleased track, “Illumination of the Sylph,” concludes the album with one of the weaker and significantly overlong songs.

While there’s promise in each of these songs, and an overall air of mystery that is initially intriguing, Whitelodge are ultimately unable to escape a creeping malaise that holds the music down to an earth that it would clearly rather leave behind. While the back cover demands “Play Very Loud!” the music requests the reverse; as above, so below.

By Mason Jones

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