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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

White Willow

Signal To Noise

Review by Gary Hill

Lead vocalist Trude Eidtang’s vocal performance really steals the show on this disc. Considering how strong the music here is, that’s truly a statement as to her vocal prowess. I had heard of this band before, but never actually heard them. Well, from this point forward, I’m hooked. I’ll be looking into anything they’ve done or do. The band creates a progressive rock soundscape that blends the best of both classic prog and the newer form of the genre. Yes, Eidtang is the star of the show in my book, but that’s just because she’s as good as she is. Everyone in the band shows that they have the chops to be a star, too. It’s just that one star seems to shine more brightly than the rest.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Night Surf
They waste no time jumping into it. It feels like they are already in the midst when we arrive. A rhythmic texture enters and the vocals begin a breathy treatment over this backdrop. This is dramatic and ethereal with a gloomy texture. They move through a number of incarnations of this basic theme. Eventually this is worked into a languid instrumental journey that has a lot of classical texture to it. After another vocal section, they power this out into a scorching, nearly metallic treatment of neo-prog. This twists around a bit in a dynamic, but still quite coherent, arrangement before dropping down to end.
Splinters
A fairly dark but quite potent progressive rock sound starts this one off. They shift out from there into a rather Genesis-like pattern to move the piece onward. This then drops way back to a balladic segment, but still the Genesis elements remain. The vocals come in over the top of this backdrop. This is pretty and powerful. It gets more fully energized as it carries forward by the addition of layers of evocative sounds. They keep this general format throughout the track, dropping it further down at points and pulling it up into expansive progression at others. This is a pretty and very strong number. It’s one of my favorites on show here. The keyboard layers on this composition truly add wonder and majesty to much of the music.
Ghosts
Dark and heavier tones lead this one off. This has a noisy, almost metallic texture at times, but it also drops back to a mellower science fiction film soundtrack type of mode at times. Of course, theremin adds to that feeling. This takes on a strong guitar mode for a while, too. It seems appropriate that this instrumental is dark and mysterious considering its title. It drops to the exceptionally mellow end of the spectrum for the late segments, only building back up into its prog fury for the actual extended outro.
Joyride
In a definite change of pace, this cut starts with the vocals and has a very light and breezy texture that is based on a definite 1980’s sound – picture The Cure and such groups without the dark nature. This cut is neither the most progressive rock oriented, nor the most dynamic on the disc. Still it is a very entertaining and positive textured track. It makes for a nice slice of variety. Trude Eidtang puts in a great performance here with some of her most waif-like vocals on the whole disc. This song reminds me a bit of the band Esquire (their biggest claim to fame was the fact that Chris Squire’s wife at the time was in the group).
The Lingering
An almost fusion-like ballad type of approach leads this one off, and it builds into a dramatic and rather balladic mode. Then it drops down to an even more evocative and powerful sedate torch song motif. This one is beautiful and powerful. They power it up for the choruses, but the vocal arrangement and performance on this one really steals the show. Without question this is my favorite piece of music here, and is worth the price of admission by itself. There are times when the music on this feels a bit like Genesis or Marillion, particularly in the latter segments.
The Dark Road
With another guitar-based ballad styling, Eidtang’s vocals come in with an airy sort of mood. This is another pretty and sedate piece of music. While the female vocals lend a different tone the early parts of this feel musically a bit like early Genesis. Mind you when the song gains some power and creates new elements that tone is not so prevalent. This one is actually quite a strong piece of music with a definite classic rock texture. It just doesn’t have the same emotional energy as the number that preceded it. Still, when they move out into the synthesizer laden instrumental segment I can hear sounds that call to mind Yes (and there’s that Genesis again).
Chrome Dawn
Keys start this one off, but as guitar joins in this understated and rather moody arrangement the classic prog influences are all over this. You might be inclined to think of Genesis or Yes or Marillion or – like me – all of the above. This moves through a number of changes, reworking and rearranging the band’s sounds. The keyboard textures and journeys seem to be among the most potent parts of this piece of music. Still, they change it up by altering the musical themes and moods and continue to captivate with this powerful instrumental. This really represents all of what is great in modern prog.
Dusk City
Genesis and Marillion are indelibly stamped on the introduction to this piece. As the verse enters the mood changes a bit, taking on a more jazzy, open arrangement. This one is another dynamic piece and works through a good number of diverse sections. It’s a strong track – another on a disc that’s full of them. The spacey jam in the center of the track is a nice touch and features some exceptionally poignant musical passages. A Laurie Anderson-like essentially a cappella segment is also an intriguing addition to the arrangement.
Ararat
They close the disc with a short Eastern tinged instrumental that is basically a guitar solo that gets augmented by keyboards as it carries forward. This is pretty and makes for a satisfying ending to a great album.
 
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