BAND OF THE WEEK: SMOKING WHITE

5 Feb

We don’t know much about Smoking White, which can lead to the tricky task of making some assumptions. And we don’t like making assumptions. But we do like Smoking White.

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We’ll try to skip the assumptions and, on the singular strength of “Soft Chains,” recommend that you consider doing the same. “Soft Chains” is the name of the full-length debut from Smoking White, a band from Texas, and one that mentions My Bloody Valentine and The Stooges as key performance indicators. It’s a good start to winning our love, and while we’d say the band’s sound often falls closer to the “Loveless” side of the sonic spectrum than it does to the “Rock Action” side, that’s assuming that there’s any agreement about a spectrum at all. And we’re trying to skip the assumptions – rather, we recommend just slipping into the surprisingly comfortable confines of “Soft Chains,” beginning as it does with a monstrous title track that sets the stage for the album as a whole.

Momentarily panned all the way to the left-hand side of your speakers or headphones, “Soft Chains” announces itself with a guitar riff three-to-five times more complex than our memory can give it credit for being, before the entire landscape is filled with the type of universe-destroying, highly-amplified, highly-hummable chaos that we’re always happy to hear come our way. “Soft chains/slow fury,” goes the moan that lays not quite on top, but somewhere in the massive middle of the song lead by an absolutely unassailable bass line (we’re holding out for a 14-minute dub remix), extending what is essentially a single idea and expanding it to the point of maximum buoyancy and felony-level fuzz-pedal abuse.

Pick any two songs from “Soft Chains” and create your own bullet-proof seven-inch of seventh-level shoegaze heaven. “Psychic Anything Blows” offers an amplified death-blow to psychic anything, the guitars seemingly shape-shifting into a languid harmonica accompaniment and back again in the blink of an eye. “Blood/Breath” strikes sharply enough to pierce the skin, oscillating effects pouring salt in the wounds all the while, and the Quaalude-calm of “Holy Joke” delivers a sound collage as its punchline, the aggressive and aggressively weird heart that beats beneath the band’s narcotic, distorted exo-skeleten.

And so it goes with Smoking White, a leisurely draw on whatever you prefer to inhale, consequences and tinnitus be damned. Who’s got a light?

Soft Chains” by Smoking White is available as a free download at their Bandcamp page. You’d be silly not to take it for a spin.

“If we are bound to a repetitive cycle of work that deprives us of our freedom to inquire and understand things for ourselves, we soon stagnate, crippled by the chains of routine. If we are spurred to action by elevating ideals but lack the discipline to implement them, we may eventually find ourselves wallowing in idle dreams or exhausting our energies on frivolous pursuits. It is only when accustomed routines are infused by vision that they become springboards to discovery rather than deadening ruts. And it is only when inspired vision gives birth to a course of repeatable actions that we can bring our ideals down from the ethereal sphere of imagination to the somber realm of fact. It took a flash of genius for Michelangelo to behold the figure of David invisible in a shapeless block of stone, but it required years of training, and countless blows with hammer and chisel, to work the miracle that would leave us a masterpiece of art.” – Bhikkhu Bodhi

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