tao te ching album reviews:
"Synthetically infused sound scapes drift in on a dense midnight fog rolling over a vast black landscape infused with howling winds. The voice of consciousness and the orchestration of intellect do manifest accompanied by steadfast rhythms ,sounding hope into the cold chill of this the most desolate of ages." Ray Pogo (The Steamers)
"This album is cleverly devised to avoid any semblance of commerciality but would definately appeal to readers of H.P.Lovecraft. A small catchment area, I grant, but perhaps not to besneezed at. Its mordent strain leads to strange visualisations. Try this: A scene no doubt prompted by a long forgotten visit to the local fleapit to see The Rise And Fall Of The House Of Usher. Imagine, you are buried, still perhaps alive - who can tell, and though six feet under you arefrantically trying to open the lid of the coffin...it's too heavy! you mind panics, the bloodfrom your lacerated fingertips pours down your throat - you are choking - then, suddenly, you hear a distant sound, and against your will your ears are drawn towards it, you strain to hear more clearly, spitting out the remains of your last fingertip. Is this music from anotherworld?...no, it's whiteberggurdjieffouspenskimarinettiwhite ! You are calmer now and strangely comforted - things are not so bad, really, they could be worse, after all being dead isnt all that disastrous, I mean, everythings relative. Such thoughts, though admittedly not every day, put you in the right frame of mind to listen to this album. These songs are not the sort that my grandma and grandad used to sing with all their mates in the coach on the way back from a day trip to Margate. They are predominantlt sung in a monotone, which in a way renders a kind of excitement when ever a change of pitch occurs. This is not a put down because, for example, in 'Coda', a ditty of sepulchral yearnings, there are two points of interest. The first, the insistent oscillating of the melody between the tonic and the tritone, known in medievil times as the 'devils interval'. The second, is the strange chorus, "In thy silence... etc" This was executed (is a word that Count Whitberg will no doubt relish) with unexpected poignancy. There is nothing prosaic here. 'Coda' does indeed have a coda, "no more to attain..." is not perhaps the material of a 'one more time everybody!' about it, but it does wrap the song up (albeit in a shroud-like fashion). 'Heaven Earth' is an antidote for those days when you awake, leap out of bed, throw the window open and suck in the sweet spring air. "Spirit of the valley dies "dead blown by flies "empty screams of death...." no room hear for the call of the lark ascending I'm afraid. But, again, a catchy, though unsingable in the shower, chorus exhorting one to "exhume ones birth" which sounds kind of painful to me. 'Sacred' Starts with slightly jagged edged jazz harmonies, played on a sample of a piano being slowly strangled. I liked this because it remind me of an even stranger song, 'Ghosts' by Japan. Infact I think Whiteberg should ask David Sylvian to guest on their next album. His complexion is suitably pallid. 'Blood Stained Soil', turned out to be my favourite. It fairly whizzed along by their standards, reminding me of Madness, only just a bit er...madder. A good chorus with a hook that any suicidal freak would be proud to hang themselves on. It actually has a real time guitar solo on it which sounds like a cross between Frank Zappa and Hank Marvin, a feat well worth mentioning in itself, and sporting a cute little blues bend at the end. This certainly broke the studied monotony of the early '80's type analogue synth punctuated by regulation snare and kick samples. And then, quite suddenly, it was all over. I went to the window to look for that lark, but it had grown darker. Shadows were creeping across the lawn and in the distance I fancied I heard the shrill whistle of a lone marauding bat." Pete Dello (musician and songwriter)
"Initially, whiteberggurdjieffouspenskimarinettiwhite appears to be one of the most ridiculously difficult to pronounce names you might have come across. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that it is made up of the surnames of the five band members (and neatly begins and finishes with the word 'white'). For a band with such a name then, it comes as something of a surprise to find that only one person, Emmanuel Whiteberg, is credited as composer, arranger and lyricist. He shares the production work with Mark White, but all of them perform on the five doom laden pieces contained in the mini-album from this Whiltshire-based outfit.
It could just be me, but the appeal of tao te ching seems heavily to depend on what mood you're in. When I gave this an initial, cursory listen, I wasn't very impressed. Second time (and listening in detail) I was quite taken by the strength of character whiteberggurdjieffouspenskimarinettiwhite displayed. Third time around I found myself focusing on its many shortcomings. Since then, I've settled somewhere between the two extremes. Style wise it must be said that Joy Division have to be a huge influence on whiteberg... Having said that, they certainly don't set out to merely emulate their heroes but seek to create a similarly intense, serious and 'artistic' form of music. Whilst their talents are not yet up to their ambitions (their portentous promotional flyers declaring: "...an experimental music ensemble...consists of 5 artists", going on to mention kicking against "the norms created by contemporary western society" etc. etc.), there's definitely a distinctive mood and style to this album.
Like Ian Curtis (one assumes it is) Whiteberg's vocals are often out of tune and strained due to lack of training or natural talent. However, also like Ian Curtis, the vocals (mostly) transcend their physical limitations with their ernest and honest intonation. The lyrics emphasise a Gothic sensibility and are best taken as mood creating wails and cries rather than as any kind of literary works of art one suspects the band would like them to be. The music is swathed in acres of reverb and although perhaps an obvious atmospheric device perfectly suits whiteberg...'s style. The simplicity of some tracks (rudimentary basslines and drums) can often be misleading as the overall effect on songs like dark empire and heaven earth is far stronger than their component parts might suggest. The standard of recording on this self-released CD is shaky in places and a better mix would certainly help. However, some elements would only be improved by re-recording from scratch. Ignoring the shortcomings, some of tao te ching is very promising and, despite the influences, pretty distinctive in its own right. More practice, more attention to detail, bouncing ideas of others and an external producer/mixer could do wonders for whiteberggurdjieffouspenskimarinettiwhite. 6/10" Rob Dyer of DSO magazine
"you are just two guys from different council
estates and it's all just a front, compare yourselves with moby;
he has done it and does what he wants. It has taken whiteberg
35 years to achieve nothing, you haven't even done a gig yet. You can't even play your own instruments" M.A. Longbottom (Artist)
Our response: "One doesn't have to do anything, only observe; we let things do themselves. Rest in the peace of the self always."
"hideous numb murky shapeless soporific drab claustrophobic fusty waffle" Brian Acton (Jazz Musician)
Our response: "hideous": "This is indeed a good word to have chosen, we welcome being described as hideous. It is far better to be hideous than nauseous
"numb": "Numbness is a sensation that humans experience when no feeling is present,:which we find it to be particularly interesting. It is far better to be numb than lame."
"murky": "Ah, those murky autumn days we do so long for. It is far better to be murky than Jingly.
"shapeless": "Since every physical thing must have structure, including sound, it would be an anachronism to denounce a compositional piece as shapeless, we can only assume therefore that a simple shape is implied, but are not the simple shapes more poignant symbolically. It is better to be shapeless than meaningless."
"soporific": "Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream. It is better to be soporific than hammy.
"drab": "Alas, the winter doth consume the colours of spring, all things in this life run from fine to course. It is better to be to be drab than facile."
"claustrophobic": "All sounds are set within a limited frequency range as dictated by the human ear. It is better to be claustrophobic than trivial."
"fusty": "We do not follow fashion. It is better to be fusty than corny."
"waffle": "Anything is waffle if one does not understand. It is far better to be waffle than to be basic."