David Vorhaus and Delia Derbyshire's seminal electronic masterpiece re-released.
Louis Pattison 2007-06-29
When White Noise’s debut album, An Electric Storm, landed on Island Records in 1969, it must have sounded like nothing else. Packaged in a striking black and white sleeve that pictured a spark of lightning streaking across a black sky, this was an album that - quite rightly as it turned out - resembled as much a scientific experiment as any conventional musical document.
White Noise came into being when David Vorhaus, an American electronics student with a passion for experimental sound and classical music attended a lecture by Delia Derbyshire, a sound scientist at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop whose claim to fame was writing the original Doctor Who theme tune. With the help of fellow Radiophonic Workshop composer Brian Hodgeson, Vorhaus and Derbyshire hunkered down at Kaleidophon Studios in Camden to pen an album that reconciled pop music with the experimental avant-garde. The result is a set of eerie, delightful songs that, for all their surface simplicity, shimmer with vestigial synthesiser swells, strange echoes, disembodied voices, and distant music-box trills.
Outside of a few equally adventurous ‘60s releases – the debut album from US psychedelic pioneers The United States Of America, for instance – this is pretty much uncharted territory, particularly for a major label release. On '‘My Game Of Loving'’, a dozen multi-tracked voices built to a panting orgasm, while the closing '‘Black Mass An Electric Storm In Hell'’ ushers the record to a freeform close in a clatter of freeform drums, cavernous echo and chilling, animalistic screams. Perhaps unsurprisingly, An Electric Storm would struggle to find an audience on its release, and in the following years, great leaps in synthesiser technology somewhat diminished White Noise’s experimental achievements. One thing that would remain timeless, however, were the songs themselves. An Electric Storm would later become a key inspiration on bands like Add (N) To X and Broadcast, synthesiser explorers who picked through these primitive, vestigial sound experiments, took careful notes, and eventually, set out to craft their own futuristic pop lullabies.