8 September 2013

Waheela - Amber

Here is a moment that I have both looked forward to and dreaded - reviewing Waheela.  Reasons I have been excited is that I think they are one of the most interesting acts to come out of Newcastle in a long time.  Reason I am not so excited it is that I know these guys, what if I don't like this work (not likely) and what if I want to praise it - it will be like blowing smoke up their arses.  So as is the way with any review, I will start this with a promise to be honest and truthful.  Waheela formed in 2009 and this is their fourth release (technically their 5th, but one of them was a remix of a track).  Each release is one piece of music of semi improvised noise that when played live will always be different - here is a link to the Lost Murphy review that Mr Chris Chaney did last year.  From their first gig (which I was privileged to be at), their passion and purpose has always been second to none. 

Last Friday, I attended the launch party for this release and it was fantastic.  It was seriously one of the best small gig that I have attended in a long time, indeed the band themselves has stated it was one of their best as well. It was launched in some style with the band giving away free copies for the price of admission.  If you get in touch with the band on one of the links below, they will be able to send you a copy; and I know they will be arranging for it to be on their Soundcloud page very soon.  But I realise that I am sort of avoiding the reason for this blog by not actually talking about the release itself.

Starting with a wall of feedback, this initially feels like business as usual for WHLA, then you have the samples drift in and out in the back ground as the first of many chunky riffs are released onto the world - it is a much more confident sound you have hear, especially when Adam Potts lets loose with his vocals screaming’s.  The work begins to spread its wings around the 6 minutes mark where the songs main riff is unleashed and the feedback gives way to one of the most beautiful riffs I have heard in drone in years - well done to Messes M Potts and Codling.  The whole song is held together by their drummer Porter, his drumming on here is second to none and the way he controls the pace and the others react to him is brilliant, and he is helping with fellow rhythm section and bass player Andrew in driving home the song and letting the guitarists take their flights of fancy.  By the time you reach the end of the first section of the song at around 14 minutes you wonder if they are going to go faster in faster until they turn thrash - and then they turn it around again....

At that point the amplifier worship comes into play again and the pace is slowed down, the noise and samples come back and it breaks down again into the sort of sludge riff which would have Eyehategod and co looking into their collection to see if anything has been half-inched.  When this was being played live on Friday, Craig from Druganaut supplied some of the screams which gave this a different texture.  On the CD,  the slow down near the middle is like falling into a pit of doom, after the first half it is such a contrast (which I am sure is by design and so they don't kill the drummer) that it splits the song in two, making it a much darker place from the almost light beginnings.  But it is for good reasons that this is done - it brings out the amplifier worship that these guys love to do.  It may slow to an almost crawl but it builds and builds into this monster of a piece that could take on anyone in the drone world.  By the time you get to the ending just before the 29th minute, it feels like you have been challenged and the last 4 minutes is the feedback and decay of another slice of noise from WHLA.

Is there anything wrong here; is there anything that I would do different?  Well, there is nothing wrong at all to be honest.  What these guys do live and here is great and long may they continue.  The only thing I wish is that there was more than one track per release, mainly because I want more and I am slightly greedy. Also, I wonder what they are going to do next.  Four releases in with some excellent work, and I wonder if they will go in a different direction to confuse everyone, create some more noise to scare the living bee-Jesus out of everyone or fall into the trap of doing the same thing over and over.  I have a feeling it will not be the later, these guys are too good for that, but on each release they have improved and I always wonder what it next.  I can't wait to find out - when you get a chance to hear AMBER, go in with an open mind - it is that type of release.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost

You can visit the band's Tumbir page here

Here is a link to their Facebook

Amber is available for free listening and download from Soundcloud here, as is all of their previous works.

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