White Noise – “An Electric Storm” Review


The beatniks coined the term hippie as a designation for junior hipsters. The not quite so hip variant the British beatnik listened to trad jazz (i.e. Traditional New Orleans jazz) while their American counterparts dug the cool sounds of modern jazz. So the hippies, like the largely closed minded second wave of punks at the start of the 1980’s, the hippie taste in music was somewhat generic specific like their sexual politics – “Give me your love thing man.” They simply and very literally didn’t get experimental electronic groups like ‘The United States of America’, ‘Fifty Foot Hose’, ‘The Silver Apples’, ‘Lothar and the Hand People’, and the to this day even lesser know ‘The Spoils of War’ and one can add to the list Britain’s contribution ‘The White Noise’s – An Electric Storm’. In fact many years ago I remember reading an article that mentioned that the original skinheads would buy ‘An Electric Storm’ in the hope of freaking out their hippie ‘friends’, probably around the time ‘International Times’ ran a skinhead column in an attempt to hold out a bold hand to their bald, braced and booted amigos.

Side one – ‘Phase In’ starts with the track ‘Love Without Sound’ (2’55”) written by Delia Derbyshire and David Vorhaus, after a burst of dreamy vocals what sounds intermittently like toads singing and crickets chirping to the accompaniment of a heavy heart beat. Voice over flourishes add to the tracks quirky charm. ‘My Game of Loving’ (4’07”) (Duncan – Vorhaus) Has some beautiful ‘Beach Boys’ style harmonies and guitar work and foreign language phrases, half way through the song breaks into the sound of an orgy; followed by more harmonious singing and ending with what sounds like S & M and a good snooze. ‘Here Come the Fleas’ (2’11”) (McDonald – Vorhaus) is a slice of psychedelic slapstick somewhat reminiscent of ‘The Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’. ‘Firebird’ (3’00”) (Derbyshire – Vorhaus) vocals structure a song punctuated by electronic sounds. To polish of side one there is ‘Your Hidden Dreams’ (4’53”) (McDonald – Vorhaus) heavenly female vocals and some great drum roll flourishes – with some wonderful lyrics “A stranger in a strange land” and “Come Orpheus and sing to me” the album closes. Our hippies are now well relaxed and await the treat in store for them.

‘Phase Out’ as side two is titled, although ‘Freak Out’ would be more appropriate begins with the first of two tracks; the 11 minutes 12 seconds ‘The Visitation’ written by McDonald and Vorhaus. It cracks open the sigils seal in ones mind, opening the portal in your room to dark and malevolent forces. I shall not contrive to describe the music on this side as it should be perceived with virgin ears. To describe this music would be akin to sterilising it with the demystifying fingers of science. The atheist proper as opposed to the miso-theist might actually believe they can reason their way out of hell like some tricornered hat wearing enlightenment philosopher while the miso-theist is just putting off the inevitable until judgement day, this may be a record but if your feet have turned into quivering jelly and you forgot to bring your tube of chewable vitamin C and the skinheads locked the door… The second piece ‘An Electric Storm in Hell’ (7’04”) (Written by White Noise) is a black mass of a piece that rounds out the side and the record. Our peace loving hippie will never be the same again even if he doesn’t realise it yet, “Baaaaaad Viiiiiibes Maaaaaan”.

The Album was the child of David Vorhaus with the cooperation of members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, released in 1969.

Available albums by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Delia Derbyshire