White Rainbow: New Clouds

From Portland, Oregon-based Adam Forkner's chemical research laboratory comes his sophomore White Rainbow album for kranky, a cranium-melting affair comprised of four long-form space-drone excursions. Forkner's natural if more ambitious follow-up to 2007's Prism of Eternal Now is as hypnotic and meditative as its predecessor while also pronouncedly uplifting in spirit. Just don't get the wrong idea: New Clouds may be transcendental, but it's anything but New Age pablum.

The feverish opener “Tuesday Rollers and Strollers” rides Forkner's dazed vocals over a percussive wave of earthy shakers and tribal drums, while a guitar orgy swells in intensity alongside. In the track's incredibly dense arrangement, multiple melodic threads intertwine, each navigating its own labyrinthine path in the hopes of reaching some unknown destination. For eighteen transporting minutes, swarms of incinerating electric guitars shudder ecstatically amidst hyperventilating swirls of synthetic wails and pulsations. After the opening piece's nonstop intensity, the tranquil guitar strums that initiate “Major Spillage” come as a welcome relief, even if, this being White Rainbow, the listener knows the piece will soon grow into something considerably more epic. But in contrast to the first track's wall-of-sound attack, the second unfurls more beatifically, like a mushroom cloud slowly expanding until one's entire field of view is consumed. The heavy synthesizer-and-drum circle “All the Boogies in the World” serves up twenty minutes of funky broil so peyote-fueled it sounds capable of resurrecting the spirits of every deceased acid-head and Merry Prankster that roamed the planet. A rather unexpected move into calmer territory arrives in the piece's final quarter when the rhythms recede and Forkner's wordless moans hover above a softly shimmering cloud formation. A snappy, neo-psychedelic hoedown feel pervades the closing “Monday Boogies Forward Forever” as it writhes spasmodically for sixteen, free-flowing minutes, sometimes blanketed by an ever-thickening and blinding fog.

kranky is making the release available in multiple formats, including the usual CD and digital, of course. But listeners most deeply attuned to the White Rainbow wavelength might wish to consider the double-vinyl option in this case; the out-of-body experience that would result from hearing New Clouds' material rising from vinyl grooves—one track per side, obviously—makes for a tantalizing proposition, to say the least.

October 2009