Whilst – everything there was was there: a reflection


Cast an eye over the succinct but ambitious manifesto-of-sorts which accompanies the first previews of Glasgows Whilst, and a pronounced eclecticism is the one ideal that stands out; Free jazz, primitive electronics, dubby post-punk, North African and motorik stylings, underpinning their sound with a strong punk ethos. Despite sounding close to the definitive classification of a Boomkat summary, their synthesis is a lot more loose and heady than this encyclopaedic list suggests. 

The accelerated exposure and deluge of content which dictates contemporary distribution (of music new and old, well-known and far-flung) and current listening habits has meant this kind of universalistic intent is now commonplace. With blogs and archival ventures facilitating a panoramic spotlight, anyone, who knows where to look and what to look for, can now listen to and be galvanized by these sounds. But with a hyper-consumptive approach that often values novelty over more considered and sustained protraction, its inevitable that new energies will sometimes be burdened by the difficulties of fusing manifold influences, of distilling the sum of a very modern universality. Fortunately thats not something which applies in this case; you couldnt accuse the energies exhibited here as burdened by much, if anything.

It seems a rare pluralistic promise for an apparently young act. Surprisingly the traces and nuances of the styles so clearly outlined are all present but dont jar when they lap, and their sum isnt a lumbering, cacophonic overload but a smooth and adept mix. Neither is there a stale, static faith in one dominating area of sound. Instead they vacillate, enlivening it all with a melding of electronic shimmer and effect, and more earthly and direct live instrumentation.

Goyas Skull for one, bursts into welts of tight polyrhythms and short-phrased, deeply fastened bass, subsequently cut up by clipped conversational rustle and sudden yells (GOYA!) all coated in out-of-orbit, echo-heavy effects. From that propulsion they flit to the sacred sax hollerings of Untitled from North Africa, appropriately Ethiopian in tone considering the title. Like Goya, its almost always near an acme of intensity, with little let-up. Breathy screeches which jump from note to note in rabid but spiritual torrents.  In both tracks theres an organic feel to them, which might be rooted in the fact that the EP was recorded in Glasgows analogue studio Green Door (also sometime home to Optimo favourites Golden Teacher) and that the band were originally formed as a jam-based project. This is reflected in the electronics, which have a natural, liquid texture, and the sense that theres an ease and comfort with the changes or each track takes over its course; a stability in flux. 

The conviction remains with Umgebung, though it hits harder. Its about as tightly strung as leather slacks on an ill-proportioned dominatrix; cold, taut arpeggios which drip and surge, live drums vamping in a crisp kick and vocals which ascend from a guttural whisper to a shriek and back again, like some esoteric, Teutonic heresy (at least it sounds like that to the ears of the author, who has a pathetic grasp of German) Then theres time enough for a crazed, mutilated bebop-no-wave-maul bookended by a Scottish voice neatly offering the insight that that was absolutely fucking mental. Theyre right, it was. A grasp of sanity isnt exactly reassured by Postcard from A Robot with brittle vocoder malfunctions and dark, wrecked piano ending everything with the imagined soundtrack to the death throes of sentient machines; a forlorn and wretched Wish You Were Here.

Altogether its a wildly divergent course with each one of these tracks a different excursion. Still theres scents and flavours from all of Whilsts self-identified cornerstones throughout, without one overwhelming presence. Its as if the order of things; the separation between these styles and the doubts of combining them successfully, is null and void in their continuum. 

Another addition to the unhinged, unbounded noises originating from Optimo following Golden Teachers riotous arrival last year; must be something in the water in Glasgow. 

Tim Wilson