Thomas White: I Dream Of Black reviews

Reviews in alphabetical order by: Artrocker Magazine, Atomic Duster, Aversion, The Beat Surrender, Click Music, CMU Daily, Culture Deluxe, The Independent, Is This Music?, London Tour Dates, Music Riot, NME, Plan B, Q Mag, Room Thirteen, Skyscrapper, Subba-Cultcha, Sweeping The Nation, Virgin Music News.

Artrocker Magazine: Thomas White has been known for several achievements: initially for gaining chart success before passing his school exams in The Electric Soft Parade, and then for tearing country and punk music a new asshole in the anti-trend super-group Brakes. Now he’s making it as a solo artist (as well as drumming for Brighton’s new bright hopes, the Shellac-meets-Aphex Twin outfit, Restlesslist).

So why a solo album with so much going on in bands? Well, this is succinct; it’s almost like the expression of a person’s various moods. Download single ‘The Runaround’, is some kind of nightmare, like a Flaming Lips meets Throbbing Gristle it’s dark, propulsive and addictive, with endless twists and turns. ‘Starry Nite 2’ is surely an expression of some kind of love and ‘Starry Nite 3’ is a gorgeous electro-orchestral arrangement that swells and recedes, showing White is no stranger to melancholy and electro eccentricity.

‘This Is Just A Little Interlude’ is exactly that – boogie-woogie rock ‘n’ roll that isn’t offensive enough to summon up old Jools, and is in fact discreet enough so as not to offend. It’s ‘Will The Moon Ever Rise Again?’ that really steals the show – a song as worthy as any crooner or blue-eyed soul boy. It’s simply heartbreaking in lyrical content and emotional arrangement. Thank heavens Thomas White is a workaholic, as this solo album is one of the most remarkable albums of the year, and all recorded in a basement to boot.

Atomic Duster 9/10. One of this month’s pleasant surprises. A very impressive CD indeed.

T: Kicking off with the lengthy titled “Is It Wrong To Lose Faith In The Person You Used To Love”, it is clear that White is a fan of the Bon Iver or Bonnie “Prince” Billy brand of folk music, but then he startles us with a glimpse of the dark side on “The Runaround”, which perhaps recalls days listening to “God’s Own Medicine” in his younger days. Although most of this stuff is pretty tender, there is definitely an element of something not being quite right, a rather fractured longing appearing to be at the heart of the matter. Intense and brooding, and not an easy listen, but certainly a rewarding one.

N: Definitely. With those darker shades, from a band wearing sunglasses at midnight, and a knee length black raincoat in the mid-day sun. Not going all out to declare themselves ‘goth’, but certainly hearing the longing for a darker side. I would have to say that this is an album with a deeper being, from the held back numbers such as “I Dream Of Black”, not unsurprisingly, to the shade wearing number “The Runaround”, where it’s Wayne Hussey and Andrew Eldritch I can almost see in the darker corner of the recording studio.

Aversion: White’s solo work isn’t just a case of a songwriter emptying third-rate cuts rejected by his band onto a vanity album. It’s a distinct new direction and one of which he can be proud, because, after all, versatility means nothing if you don’t deliver the goods in your various projects. Consider I Dream Of Black delivered goods.

The Beat Surrender Thomas White has to be one of the hardest working guys in music, seemingly always on tour and equally as proficient with the writing, he now has a solo album to go alongside the work he has on with Brakes and Electric Soft Parade, a band who it seemed last year were at the end of the road, but pleasingly are now set to continue.

His album I Dream Of Black released through Drift Records is a continuation of his work in ESP, although obvious differences abound as well. It has that hazy psychedelia that the band really explored so well on their third album last year, while also having a more folk leaning to it.

Fans of his other bands won’t be disappointed by this album, the lack of pop hooks might put off outsiders, but who cares about that, sometimes it’s nice to be a part of a hard working club!

Click Music (click link for full review) “Dark, downbeat but never depressing, there is a mystery and beauty throughout the record and you can’t help feeling that every time you play it again you will discover something new”

CMU Daily: As if Thomas White didn’t have enough going on with Electric Soft Parade, Brakes, Restlesslist and the rest of the Brighton scene, he has now joined the Devon-based Drift Collective and is set to release this, his debut solo album. Recorded at home on a four track tape machine, with White playing all the instruments himself, this is a lo-fi record described by the man himself as an idea of what ESP’s demos might sound like. ‘I Dream Of Black’ contains several snippets, slightly unformed songs which befit the scratchy home recording style of the whole. It’s rewarding in parts, not least the incendiary, swirling My Bloody Valentine-esque ‘The Runaround’, which is possibly the most impressive and innovative thing on offer and makes you wonder how White would get on with the kind of time and money Kevin Shields had to record ‘Loveless’. As it is we can enjoy another album from a prolific artist showing an admirable do-it-yourself ethos.

Culture Deluxe: 8/10. White dreams of black? Ok! Virtually part of the indie establishment now, Thomas White should be known to many as guitarist in Electric Soft Parade and Brakes and, having reverted to his Sunday name, is now a solo artist in his own right.

‘I Dream Of Black’ is chameleonic from start to finish. ‘Starry Nite #2’ recalls psychedelic McCartney, ‘Will The Moon Ever Rise Again’ is My Bloody Valentine minus the wall of noise and the title track is one of many instrumentals employing atmospheric string swirls colliding malevolently with crisp, slithering analogue noise. Conveniently at the midpoint, ‘This is Just a Little Interlude’ is exactly that, a jolly, shuffling surf guitar workout which should just give you enough time to secure one of those tiny ice cream pots from a hostess.

Largely experimental, slighly mental, ‘I Dream Of Black’ may very well be the best thing Thomas White has ever produced, just what brother Alex thinks of that is another matter!

The Independent: Formerly of Electric Soft Parade, this Brightonian forges dream-scapes in a DIY spirit on his solo album, recorded at home on four-track. The result prizes mood over melody, suggesting languid evenings spent alone in his bedroom. But if you crave heady chin-scratchers (“Will The Moon Ever Rise Again?”) in psych pastels, he makes sounds to swim in.

Is This Music? 4 stars. Thomas White ventures out on his own for the first time whilst on a very rare break from Electric Soft Parade and Brakes commitments and the results are, in a word, brilliant. If you’re wondering what the point of this record is being that White pens most of the ESP songs and has more than a hand in the Brakes material then I suggest you just get a copy, sit back and soak it up.

Turns out White is a wee psychedelic kid at heart, over the course of these ten fuzzy, lo-fi-reaching-for-the-sky numbers, White displays song writing maturity way beyond his years and some delightful chord changes to boot. ‘The Runaround’ is rightfully chosen as the lead single, it’s undeniably ripped straight from ‘Come Down’ era Dandy Warhols but who cares when it’s this damn good, a slacker-rock anthem and easily the most accessible track on here. The not so snappily titled, ‘Is It Wrong to Lose Faith in the Person You Used to Love?’ and ‘The Silence Stops Tonight’ are more intimate affairs but showcase Whites beautiful voice and twisting melodies wonderfully, the latter breaking into an epic wig-out.

Elsewhere the quirky instrumental aptly named, ‘This Is Just A Little Interlude’ is a sheer delight, in a similar vein to ‘Coffee in the Pot’ by Supergrass you’re guaranteed to have the surf-guitar line in your head for days, it’s so infectious I ended up learning the guitar line myself, anything to impress a lady. The songs weave in and out charmingly with ambient-electro passages and some avant-garde numbers, not my usual cup of tea at all but they work a treat especially on ‘Starry Nite #3’ which plays like some sort of early Gershwin recording before breaking into spits and spats of drum machines and electro pulses.

Apparently this was all recorded on a Tascam 4-track although I’m pretty dubious of that claim, it’s certainly a striking slab of old-school lo-fi indie, if you like early Domino or Drag City stuff then you’ll lap this up. It’s out on Drift Records who are fast becoming one of the best UK indie’s ever.

London Tour Dates: With I Dream Of Black closing with an eight-minute sonic exploration of what a solar implosion would sound like from Earth, it is clear Thomas White doesn’t lack ambition in his art. As one half of Brighton’s The Electric Soft Parade, sometime member of Brakes and drummer with British Sea Power, White has an eclectic musical background – harnessed to impressive effect on this, his debut solo album. Wilfully self-indulgent and unfashionably expansive, I Dream Of Black is full of layered synths and White’s mantra-like vocals, giving a dreamlike quality to proceedings. Lead single The Runaround is an epic soundscape, full of the type of stratospheric guitar playing last heard on Hope Of The State’s first album, while other songs such as the Brian Wilson-influenced Starry Nite #2 offer a softer, more muted mood. Destined to become a favourite among a few music aficianados, this ambitious album deserves a wider audience than White’s name and small time PR will reach.

Music Riot 4/5. Given only a white disc with a Thomas White sticker on it I was left to guess what this might be. It happily ran on a loop in my car for a week before I had to know. I assumed it was a portfolio of a composer trying to get work creating soundtracks for films. It plays like an artist’s sketchbook. Almost every song is a different style and many of the songs don’t have vocals. Despite this sketchy, demo like feel it’s really rather enjoyable. It’s calming but not so much in the way of background music. You’ll feel very aware of what you’re listening to but it’s not intrusive.

I’d be hard pressed to say what I Dream of Black reminds me of as a whole. There are hints of Simon and Garfunkel in the opening track but then the second track presents more of an updated 80’s new wave sound mixed with a pounding, industrial sounding beat. There are definitely hints of Garbage… How can I fully describe this album? …Sod it,

1. Simon & Garfunkel 2. Garbage, Talk, Talk 3. Radiohead, Eels 4. Muse 5. Chronicles of Narnia 6. The Who, The Beatles 7. I’ll come back to this one 8. The Who, Lamb 9. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

10. The nicest little tune I think I’ve ever heard. It makes me feel nostalgic for a time I never knew and a musical I never saw. Wall-e would love it; up until the three minute mark anyway when the song winds away in to the distance in an electronic soundscape; such a nice end to an album. I’d recommend it for something to put on when you can’t sleep.

Despite my GROSS oversimplification of what this record holds it is extremely complex. Maybe that’s why I’m having so much trouble reviewing it. It’s a scary concept but something I’d like to see a lot more of. It’s not at all radio friendly but I really hope it finds the right crowd.

Oh, and track 7 is too rare a piece to sum up in one sentence. It starts off with clarinets and piano and sounds something like the soundtrack to a film noir before becoming something a lot darker and quickly turning in to something very sweet and reminiscent of Morcheeba.

NME: If you found The Electric Soft Parade’s ‘No Need To Be Downhearted’ a little too sunshiney, investigate this curiosity from their vocalist Thomas White. His first solo effort, it’s a more off-kilter, subtler prospect. Opening with the rolling, acoustic psych-folk of ‘Is It Wrong To Lose Faith In the Person You Used To Love’, ‘I Dream Of Black’ takes a gentle sonic swim through seas of reverb, washing up on shores of song that range from the sci-fi Dandy Warhols shuffle of ‘The Runaround’ to the Jim Noir-ish ‘This Is Just A Little Interlude…’ Download: ‘The Runaround’

Plan B: The sound of a helpless romantic with a morbid fascination for dark noise sure can make for interesting listening. Being one of The Electric Soft Parade brothers, playing in Brakes (and now Brighton style-manglers Restlesslist) obviously isn’t enough to quench Thomas White’s hunger for expression, and expression seems the key to I Dream Of Black. ‘The Runaround’ is music as sinister nightmare. ‘Will The Moon Ever Rise Again’, meanwhile, mines a doomed sadness that would make nightmares seem welcome. This is some black magic.

Q Mag August 2008: Thomas White is another busy man. Besides leading Brighton-based “prog-pop” outfit The Electric Soft Parade with brother Alex, he also runs a side project, Brakes. On top of all that, he’s also completed his first solo album I Dream Of Black (Drift, **** Q Recommends) which recalls the psychedelic-rock splendour of Spiritualized at their peak.

Room Thirteen It seems quite a surprise when the calming collection of pretty sonic creations comes to an abrupt end. Looking at the clock however reveals that almost 40 minutes have past and the album has simply lost me in its dreamy world. It features a delicate mix of glossy vocal harmonies with a dreamy quality like, ‘Is It Wrong To Lose Faith In The Person You Used To Love?’ and ‘Starry Nite #2’, which also features a gentle sprinkling of piano and some shimmering sleigh bells.

There are some far out and slightly soporific numbers like title track, ‘I Dream Of Black’, which is an intriguing piece, sounding rather like the soundtrack to an exploratory mission into space with frissons of crackling percussion breaking through the glassy tones and shuddering string shivers. It feels as though every kind of instruments gets its turn in the limelight on this album with oboes and reed instruments playing a lovely low melody on, ‘Starry Nite #3’ before its transforms to a chilled, slightly psychdelic tune.

‘The Runaround’ has an offkilter, gritty charm with metallic guitars forcing their way through vocals with an electronic edge and tight beats, it has the same stormy, electro rampage feel as Muse at their peak. ‘This Is Just A Little Interlude…’ smashes through the calm of ‘I Dream Of Black’ with its jaunty, jangly indie featuring tambourines and plenty of guitars. Most of the tunes are instrumentals, so where vocals do kick in on, ‘Will The Moon Ever Rise Again?’, they’re a pleasant surprise and add to the ethereal concept.

‘Wartime Love/Solar Collapse’ is a laidback, timeless classic with pretty piano keys twinkling away in its first half, while the later section is a creepy, space age collection of synth squeals and doomy chord sequences that feel like they come straight from a sci-fi movie.

‘I Dream Of Black’ is a mix of intriguing and delicate tunes with a surreal edge that draws the listener in. It’s a charming listen for any occasion and the tunes grow in strength on every listen due to their unconventional structures.

Skyscrapper (NY magazine) With an opening that recalls Brian Wilson’s awe-inspiring teenage symphony “Surf’s Up,” I Dream of Black is an exquisite solo debut from Electric Soft Parade’s Thomas White. A gorgeous album that leans heavily on Wilson’s lush orchestral pop-edelia, it’s a homemade LP that sounds like it came straight off the beaches of California. Lead U.K. single “The Runaround,” however, is off-kilter indie-pop that owes as much to The Jesus & Mary Chain as it does The Beach Boys. “I Dream of Black” is world-weary atmospheric acid firmly rooted in Smile’s sandpit craziness. Borrowing from both Pink Floyd’s experimental ambience and The Beach Boys era-defining harmonies, I Dream of Black effortlessly bridges the gap between U.S. and U.K. psychedelia. Anchored by White’s typically understated indie vocals, it’s a sublime slice of contemporary British acid-pop. Like Wilson writing Pet Sounds in a Brighton bed-sit, White proves that this kind of orchestral pop music can come from anywhere. A beatific album of considerable depth and beauty…

Subba-Cultcha 4 stars. Neo-Psychedelic, home-crafted debut from Electric Soft Parade alumni.

‘I Dream Of Black’ represents a singularly visioned home-crafted, personal affair. Something essentially oxymoronic is present throughout the songs of Thomas White, for while at once the songs can appear uplifting or playful, concurrently there is always something intangibly sinister or unsettling, afoot in the distance. In this sense the mood as opposed to the actual sound of the record, shares similarities with artists such as Portishead or even Angelo Badalamenti, in that effect of lightness contrasted with something somewhat murkier.

However that’s not to say the record isn’t a catchy or enjoyable affair, more that it’s at times unsure character, helps to create a more intriguing template. Psychedelica and that decade of the 1960’s stamps a strong presence on proceedings throughout, indicative in the treated drone vocals and layered, inventive guitars.

Soundtracks and the whole genre of film music also stamps an influence over instrumentals such as ‘Starry Nite #3’ and the title track. ‘Will The Moon Ever Rise Again’ meanwhile opens with a Jeff Buckley snake-like guitar pattern reminiscence of ‘Dream Brother’ before drum machines and spooky keyboard noises enter to mutate and take the track somewhere else entirely.

As previously mentioned overall proceedings are versatile, essentially original and engaging. Moreover ‘I Dream Of Black’ is a somewhat unusual album, in that it is as much of itself while simultaneously sounding like some distant album soundtracking a lost, forgotten 60’s film.

In essence then, ‘I Dream Of Black’ represents a record where for once, the oft used ‘solo album’ terminology is wholly appropriate.

Sweeping The Nation “…factor in his drumming for Restlesslist and his sideline/stand-in work with a phalanx of other bands and he seems to be in possession of some sort of magic quality music elixir, one that’s capable of stretching out genre boundaries while never losing sight of the qualities of a good tune. That’s as much the case with his debut solo album, I Dream Of Black, another high quality product from the fast becoming completely reliable Drift label. Recorded by himself on a four-track it plays better than many a patchwork release produced in far less reduced circumstances, delving further into the psychedelic elements ESP often hint at – his Myspace suggests Broadcast as a major influence, which we can very much see – levered with the kind of Tim Buckleyesque songwriting he’s exhibited playing acoustically. Chalk another one up in his credit column”

Virgin Music News Albums Of The Week – 8/10: I Dream Of Black is Thomas’s debut solo album and showcases his multi-instrument talents. It’s a mix of rocky riffs and mellow songs, from crowd-pleasing The Runaround to the smooth music hall sound and nostalgic lyrics of Wartime Love. At just over 37 minutes, it’s a short album but best listened to all at once.