White Willow’s third album, Sacrament from 2000 has been remastered and re-released in an expanded edition on Termo Records.
The band’s most recent album, 2011’s Terminal Twilight, is one of my favourite albums of the past few years, so I’ve found it interesting to explore some of White Willow’s earlier material. Opening with Anamnesis, all the elements that make up the band’s armoury are here – the flutes, classic 70s keyboards / synths, multi-layered acoustic and electric guitar and the vocals of Sylvia Erichsen, along with a powerful deep bassline underpinning the song. Some lovely subtle percussion drives the middle section of the opening track, before it gives way to a more raw, organic performance, with a real live feel.
Paper Moon has hints of Signify era Porcupine Tree with the emotive, reverb-drenched keyboard sounds. Jacob Holm-Lupo is an excellent producer, and always brings a warm, colourful mix to his recordings, especially with the vocals. If you haven’t already done so, check out his other major project, The Opium Cartel.
“You came, and left too soon”
The Crucible opens with a Hackett-esque (Spectral Mornings era) guitar intro, and keeps a pastoral feel throughout the early section of the only instrumental song on the album, which builds to a powerful, somewhat Floydian multi-guitar ending.
The Last Rose of Summer features Jacob joining Sylvia on vocals, in a moving track, which stands out due to it being one the most straightforward, simple arrangements on the album.
Gnostalgia is another album highlight. A slowly building arrangement, and my favourite vocal performance on the album, it’s simply a beautiful piece of progressive music.
“As echoes in a quiet land, where spirits may grow strong”
The closing track of the album proper is the disturbing The Reach. Setting the scene with it’s “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” opening (the original rhyme is often explained as being about the Great Plague from 1885, history fans), the track twists and turns though time signatures, and is a stark contrast to some of the gentler moments in the album’s preceding tracks. But there is beauty in decay and darkness, you just have to scratch a little deeper under the surface to find it.
“Fragrant night, give me shelter”
The album ends with a couple of demo recordings plus an audience recording from the era, but I prefer to hear the album in it’s entirety without the bonus tracks, though I’m sure long-standing fans will appreciate the extras.
Sacrament is an excellent album, that in this 2014 remastered form, doesn’t sound like a 14 year old album. Maybe it’s time is now?
Buy White Willow’s Sacrament (Expanded Edition) at Amazon UK
Buy White Willow’s Terminal Twilight at Amazon UK
Visit the White Willow website.