White Rainbow New Clouds

[Kranky; 2009]

Styles: new age lounge
Others: The Album Leaf, Fuck Buttons

New Clouds, the new release by Adam Forkner as White Rainbow, is composed of four long, spacey, quasi-futuristic, New Age, club-friendly jams. The shortest one checks in at just less than 13 minutes, and the longest one is just over 20. Seven minutes into the first groove, “Tuesday Rollers and Strollers,” feelings of claustrophobia and brutal Taylorism develop, and they don’t diminish over the course of the album. Once the beat has been programmed, it follows its rigid rule obediently, acting as more of a prison than an organic foundation for the rest of the gradually looped sound-blossoms that Forkner systematically plants on top of it. Sticking with the gardening metaphor for a moment: If we think of New Clouds as a greenhouse, then it’s one cared for by machines on an assembly line rather than humans.

While Forkner’s live performances embrace an improvisatory ethos, New Clouds lacks this spontaneous approach. A multitude of sounds swirl in as many directions, but the possibility of autonomy is hindered by the stiff techno-aesthetic that pervades the album. Some will be tempted to use the language of psychedelia when verbalizing the album, but the only track that seems conducive to such description is “Tuesday Rollers and Strollers.” “Major Spillage” is closer to a longform song by The Album Leaf, plagued as it is by cheesy night-club beats and banal post-rock moods than anything most would be willing to call “far-out” or “experimental.” At best, “Major Spillage” is slightly edgy, Fordist lounge music. “All The Boogies In The World” incorporates Animal Collective-esque chanting with faux-tribal beats and dance club electro-programming, eventually (after 13 minutes) opening up to a more interesting, spacious dimension. It is with the latter — when space provides the opportunity to explore and let sounds breathe — that Forkner is most compelling. Unfortunately, New Clouds does not frequently embrace such open spaces, favoring bad sci-fi and mind-numbing dance-club sounds over mind-expanding psychedelia.

As the contemporary psychedelic scene re-embraces the synthesizer, there seems to be a split into at least two different camps. One camp merges the human with the machine in order to construct some sort of hybrid, transhuman aesthetic that subjugates the machine elements to the human. Another camp merges the machine and the human with the result being the dethronement of the latter and the celebration of the former, namely the arguably totalitarian mechanization of the human. New Clouds exemplifies the sounds that coincide with the death of the human and the celebration of the machine. There are few signs of human life on the album, and a frightening overabundance of robotic precision. While Forkner’s human voice enters at the beginning, only minutes later does it become unrecognizably mechanical. This robot-induced hypnosis leads less to genuine enlightenment than it does to pointless New Age dehydration. The image of the world that emerges is of a desert landscape filled with decaying machines and, given the album’s title, this is puzzling.

1. Tuesday Rollers and Strollers
2. Major Spillage
3. All The Boogies In The World
4. Monday Boogies Forward Forever

Most Read