White Rainbow (née Adam Forkner) recently tore through the autumn skies to drop this bomb, blowing away expectations, surpassing anything I could have anticipated after the already-excellent 2007 LP Prism of Eternal Now. Expanding on the warm, nebulous nature of his live jam constructions, New Clouds is an impossibly appropriate title for one of this year’s best records.
Transcendent, overwhelming, hypnotic bliss. Building layer upon layer of drones, stretched and echoed vocals, muted tribal percussion, and gorgeous synth swells, each track is a towering confection allowed room to naturally develop and breathe. The four tracks comprise an hourlong running time, every moment feeling palpably open and inviting. This album inspires and propels further listening, rather than demanding it. Songs begin focused on a singular element, be it delayed acoustic guitar strums or rubbery hand drumming, and evolve with such grace and intuitive logic that final assembly is nearly imperceptible. This music simply happens, while the conscious mind is busy absorbing the amorphous beauty like a pillow swallowing a blissful dreamer. Informed by a wide range of greats, from Terry Riley to Can at their most euphoric, Forkner has finally broken through to a plane where his art exists on its own terms, immaterial of time or place. This album raises hypnagogic exploration to new heights. (by David James)
Kranky pysch-rocker Adam Forkner indulges his spontaneous side on a heady record that’s laid out like a modern classical or classic jazz work.
Adam Forkner, the Portland-based jack-of-all-trades who’s played in more bands than I could reasonably list here, has seen an increased profile recently through his collaborations with labelmates and fellow psych-rockers Valet and Atlas Sound but, as a solo artist, has remained staunchly committed to free-form improvisation. If you’ve seen him perform live as White Rainbow, then you know this to be true: A typical set features Forkner alone, kneeling on stage amidst of a mess of instrumentation– guitars, pedals, synths– that he uses to build ambient washes and vocal-looped drones on the spot. Listening to previous records like 2007’s Prism of Eternal Now and taking into consideration his background in jazz, one assumes he works much the same way in the studio– letting the music develop organically.
Rather than turning toward more pop-oriented structures with his latest release, New Clouds, Forkner has indulged this spontaneous approach even further, resulting in a heady record that, while at times uneven, features some of his most compelling music yet. The album is presented like a long-form jazz or modern-classical piece, with four extended tracks (roughly 16 minutes each) that comprise one continuous movement. (Sounds arduous, I know, but it’s ultimately more blissout than high-concept challenging.) It’s the sort of thing that’s best absorbed as a whole– there’s a general sense of moving forward through shifts in mood and momentum– and, despite its very unplanned, impressionistic feel, mostly manages not to veer too far off course or, worse, into New Age-y background-music territory.
The record’s best songs (heck, “jams” might even be more accurate) are its first and last, which bookend the album with an energy that’s less present during its middle section. Opener “Tuesday Rollers and Strollers” takes form over whirring electrical noises and looped, tribal-like chants before introducing skittering synths and a heavy drumbeat as it progresses. It’s a fuller and more dynamic sound than Forkner was able to achieve on Prism of Eternal Now’s shorter cuts (the longer track lengths here seem justified in that sense) and conjures ELO prog as much as it does the Field’s vocal-spliced propulsion. “Monday Boogies Forward Forever”, the finale, is sort of a blossoming drone that worms reverberant guitar notes through clattering background percussion and opens into a seductive coda.
The tracks sandwiched between these two, “Major Spillage” and “All the Boogies in the World”, are considerably slower-paced. They shift the momentum downward, drawing more on ambient textures and delicate features like hand-drum pitter-patter and acoustic guitar strumming. It’s this stretch that might test the patience of those without an appetite for loose free-jamming, and you could reasonably call it a lull, but on some level it works as a calming period after the disorientating opener and sets the stage to close the record with a bang. If you’re able to view it through that lens, then New Clouds has much to offer as an unscripted, decidedly un-pop kind of album: mood music and drug music, yes, but more than that, the uncompromising work of a dude making sounds strictly on his own terms. (by Joe Colly)
Adam Forkner (all instruments, vocals)
01. Tuesday Rollers And Strollers 18.06
02. Major Spillage 12.49
03. All The Boogies In The World 20.10
04. Monday Boogies Forward Forever 16.01
Music composed by Adam Forkner