File under 'quiet triumph'.
Daryl Easlea 2009
Quiet may have ceased being the new loud some time ago, but Songs from the White Sea demonstrates that John Alexander Ericson is a welcome addition to the school of soft, reflective troubadours.
Recorded alone in the Welsh countryside, this is Alberta Cross organist Ericson’s solo debut. Written over a period of five years, it has already been described elsewhere as a “haunting slice of gospel electronica”. And, to be fair, that is not a bad assessment; the minimalism of the settings frame Ericson’s floating, wraithlike vocals, creating a record that is intimate, if only sporadically warm .
Songs from the White Sea isn’t what you expect it will be. With a laptop and a Moog, it’s hushed and up-close, and as it was made in isolation, you half-expect Jeb Loy Nichols-style muted soul. But no: this is darker, and often extremely catchy.
The piano-based, far-away vocals of the austere Mary Song make it the standout here. There is the gentle mood of The Man in White with its handclaps, and Always Leave Them Wanting More; Johanna is all-out pop, while the instrumental The Light Machine is undoubtedly a homage to Berlin-era David Bowie – it’s a subtle work that is unafraid to introduce an insidious chorus. The repetition of Midnight Warriors is hazy, woozy and pervasive, emerging like a landscape out of a thick morning mist; as is the extended refrain on the moody Through the Devil’s Eyes.
Songs from the White Sea is an album that consistently doesn’t do what you think it’s going to, and frequently delights in the process. File under ‘quiet triumph’.