White Denim have been one of those comets orbiting around my galaxy without ever winning the gravitational force needed to land on my planet.
This was until D, their latest album, was properly released. To stay within this nerdy astronomical terminology D is a stellar piece of work. An adjective much in fashion on recent reviews.
I go defensive when I try to find out a reason outside my prejudices to justify White Denim absence in my CDs collection. I attribute it to the tumultuous managing of their releases.
Behind the (unoriginal nowadays) philosophy of “the CD doesn’t count a lot to us” White Denim discography is, to be kind, confusing.
The debut came out few years ago with a different title and different song list on the two sides of Atlantic. Here it was called Workout Holidays, there Explosion. Here came out with Full Time Hobby (a name a warranty) there was self produced, copied on CD-R sold at gigs (no warranty whatsoever!). It was around 2007.
just to make things more complex, in the following months, several more songs were released in a sequence of rare-to-find EPs.
Round about mid 2009 they released the second album: Fits. Still on two different labels between USA and UK (don’t ask me about the rest of the world) but a more traditional promotion managed to get the band name to people into independent music. Including myself. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to see them live and I kind of forget to give the album a proper listening.
2010 has seen a third album: Last day of Summer. It is another sort of self-produced for fun LP, I learn from Wikipedia while writing this. The band says: “This record is something we made as a little summer retreat from our ongoing work on the third full length [album]. Many of these tunes have been bouncing around since the formation of the band back in 06. We were super pumped to utilize a few fresh and casual musical approaches on this record.”
The nice bit is that Wiki says it is downloadable for free. The bad one is that this isn’t true anymore.
Then it’s May 2011 when D arrives. It was streaming somewhere online when I came across it. Instantly I realized I was in front of a totally different band. I had to go back and double check fits to be sure they where the same folks.
Unique label, unique release date and, overall, a unique clarity of intent. Despite May was the months of Fleet Foxes, Okkervil River and other delights, D has been in heavy rotation and full volume on my CD player.
Comparing D with their previous material few things become clearer. OK with garage music, OK with lo-fi approach, OK with psychedelic trips but when it comes the time to make a record that has a defined sound, a sound rotating around guitars tangled up together, there’s no improvisation.
You need the production, the attitude and more than anything else you need a second guitarist!
To record D White Denim changed studio, instruments, left the chaos behind and add another guitar to the original trio. It is the turning point.
Not all bands have a Pete Townshend and a John Entwistle able to control and domate a Keith Moon.
If in the last four years the unruled drumming of Joshua Block left James Petralli guitar and Steven Terebecky bass sometimes disoriented, the arrive of the second guitar of Austin Jenkins brought order and discipline. Whatever these two words means in a rock band from Austin, Texas.
White Denim are not seeking the inspiration far away. Austin is the artistic and cultural oasis in the hyper conservative Texas. Here where SXSW festival happens (and where they were noticed first time). White Denim desire of experimenting, being inspired, jamming comes from the music of their home and reflects into the music they play.
It’s hot in Austin, much hotter than Camden town tonight.
When James Petralli gets his Gibson out of the black “Gibson – Memphis” case it looks like a cloud of dust was lit up by the yellow and orange spotlights trying to recreate the warm atmosphere. They didn’t succeed.
The music did.
Joshua Block drumming is unstoppable, it is the fulcrum.
As if they were a seesaw, the second guitar allows the band to balance over that fulcrum. Terebecki bass behind his funny glasses draws bass lines that are the lever over which everything resides.
As four kids in a playground for over a hour and half White Denim ride lands of notes.
The gig, thankfully, is D-centric.
The music is inspired by the southern-rock legacy and from there move onward.
They hint at history, from Allmann Brothers band to 13th Floor Elevators but know the contemporary pals Black Angels and get inspired by anything they like.
At The Farm is an amazing song from start to finish with the awesome instrumental break in the middle designed to get any crowd mad at any live rendition.
Street Joy has a guitar bridge that make me thing of a Pink Floyd songs which I still have to identify. If you had, please tell me.
White Denim know how to play. Very well. A tradition often forgotten and not considered essential in UK is unavoidable to survive as a professional band in USA.
I could not find a weak moment in White Denim set tonight, as I couldn’t in the album. It is reassuring to see how a band can still have the chance to insist and insist until they found their path before being swallowed, digested and forgotten by the ever expanding, unstoppable, music industry always eager of a next-big-thing.
It’s not of everyone to spend 4 years in a chaotic stream of ideas, floating in space to land in style and deliver a stunning album.
White Denim managed to get up there. Now the path should be comfortably downward, let’s hope they don’t stumble in the way to the next step.
Going back home I am surprised at how the speed of my doubts and prejudices vanished in few months. If only the train was half as quick.
I started putting together a colour portfolio summing up the digital stuff I did in the last couple of here to go along with my film stuff I have been doing in the past 10 and more.
I uploaded a wider selection of my favourite pictures on 500px, a fast expanding photo database you may have stumbled upon.
What’s your favourite photo sharing social network?
500px is modern. As any web 2.0 social network requires it allows to browse the photos in a portfolio elegant style. As this:
A link useful to send to your clients, bands, PR not bothered to see what’s going on the background but only interested of the selection of your work.
Then 500px allows people on the network to comment, favourite, like and dislike the images on your collection using a slightly separate platform (and web url).
To let other photographers help in the selection of your portfolio images has advantages.
“Photographers”, this is the main point.
Differently from flickR or Instagram (not even mentioning Facebook) where everyone is on, regardless their photo experience, 500px has an impressive photographic quality and it is represented mostly by serious snappers. (may change in the future if it gets very popular as it seems).
Differently from flickR where comments and favourites tends to be biasied towards the name of the artist more than the photo, on 500px what people votes is the quality of the image.
One of my White Denim photos is in there too and made its way into the portfolio.
All the pictures who got a nice feedback have been included in my final selection that you can also browse on my
which allows you to order fine-art prints delivered straight to your door. But I’ll praise photoshelter in another photo tip.
Christmas is dramatically getting close, help yourself and tell your friends!