Tom White - In Poor Visibility (Hibernate)

on Thursday, 4 February 2010
Although not as instant as the two excellent releases last year care of Smallfish and Under the Spire (those labels names alone should really tell you enough, you're almost guaranteed satisfaction) Tom Whites latest on the up and coming label Hibernate is still most worthy of your attention.

Slightly conceptual in manner, the tracks are inspired by the photograph that serves as the albums artwork and carry an icy winter cold feel to them, On Sundays is all crackles and cold winds, its almost chills you just to listen to it. Slight echoes of Godspeed slip in toward the end of the track, though they should in no way be used as a main reference.

It's a slow burning album, but things really pick up come track A Pardon and the two tracks that follow, delightfully liquidy in sound and reminiscent of The Fun Years organic wash of a sound, crackling embers over running water, a real delight.

The almost title track, Visibility, finely mixes the field recordings with a gently churned out melody, squeezing it self out like a bulb sprouting from under the snow showing the first sign of new life following the bitter winter.

It'll take a good few listens, even now i'm only just appreciating the quality of tracks such a Moredon Cooling Towers. I've said it before and i'll say it again, Tom White is very much one to watch.

Arriving in the midst of a bitterly cold January the Hibernate label could hardly have timed this release any better. 'In Poor Visibiity' positions itself as an ode to your wintry woes, sporting a sleeve image that could have been snapped outside your house this very morn. It wasn't, incidentally; as it turns out the cover-mounted photo is a found picture that electronic composer Tom White took as an inspirational starting point for his music. The evocative imagery of frost, snow and ice continues to be of great inspiration to ambient and microsound composer types, as the list of blizzard-pummelled soundscapes grows ever longer: in the past we've had the likes of Thomas Koner, Bernhard Gunter, Taylor Deupree, Lawrence English and White's Hibernate labelmate Ian Hawgood all revelling in the bleak midwinter, and In Poor Visibility is a notable entry into this fine tradition. Beginning with 'Global' as a kind of overture, White fires his album up with some magisterial drone work and a collage of various natural sounds, all filtered through a soft-focus, blurry recording aesthetic. Starting to pick apart his soundworld, 'On Sundays' finds White reducing down to scratchy panning noises, minuscule twitches of guitar and a brooding, bassy swell of background tones, and 'Cecil Andrew' further delves into more textured terrain, sounding a little like a Gas recording caught in a downpour of sleet. The album cleverly avoids sounding too pastoral, throwing in one or two coarser sonic constituents as time goes on (you'll hear a fair amount of distortion and feedback circulating in the outskirts of the mixes here) meaning that you're never fatigued by sugary sweetness. Even in the most serene moments - during the excellent 'Visibility' for instance - there's always an undercurrent of dissonance close by to keep you on your toes.