BY JONATHAN LEVITT
There’s something terrifying about the music that White Manna creates. On their latest album Pan they ratchet up the intensity much like a solar flare being shot out into the universe. The music hits you with waves of radiation and obliterates everything in its path. The first track I put on repeat was the third track entitled “Dunes II”, this is a song that starts off with a repetitive guitar line coupled with some flanged vocals, and then slowly ratchets up the tension, until the ferocious guitars, distorted to 11 come in. This is the point where the song becomes airborne. A white-hot, hazy guitar solo morphs and teases eventually building into turbulent squalls that pummel the listener into submission. Then like some of the great psychedelic bands before them, Spacemen 3 comes to mind here, the song spins down disappearing back into the ether.
The next track “Evil” harkens back to Doremi Fasol Latido era Hawkwind. It’s also one hell of a storming tune. The vocals reside slightly above the horizon with a rhythm section that keeps things tight and hustling forward.
The song “Beta Travellers” once again shows the bands reverence for all things Hawkwind. The song starts off with a punchy drum beat over which Del Dettmar like synth quivers in and out signaling lift off!
The entire album is preparing the listener for the epic final track entitled “Eshra” which is truly the definition of building from a whisper into a scream. Dumped on a distant shore, the song begins to rev up slowly. With a cymbal crash the clouds begin to evolve slowly into a super cell thunderstorm that’s about to go crazy over a remote section of the desert. At the 2:50 mark the drums come crashing in and this song just builds and builds and builds some more. The drums here show an almost Jaki Liebezeit/Brant Bjork, metronomic sense of timing. Then the piece shift as the guitar glides over the now rumbling drums taking things down a notch. The delay washed guitar emanations that begin to fade signal that the song is coming to an end. The thing about the track “Eshra” is one listen fails to satisfy. It’s just one of those songs you wish would go on forever. I’ve read that White Manna is shit hot as a live band. I can only imagine that this is the sort of track they can easily extend to 20 minutes in front of an audience.
I’m really enjoying the fact that bands like White Manna and Wooden Shjips have reinvigorated and in many ways reinvented the psych music scene in the US.
Kudos to guitarist David Johnson who just blows everything away with his playing. I liken his playing to those films of the Manhattan project and the detonating of the Atom bomb in the desert with the scorching of the mannequins that were strategically placed to mimic what humans would supposedly endure, this is how you feel when the glow of the album finally begins to dissipate.
White Manna is as their name implies a sort of spiritual food from the heavens. With Pan the band has created an album that places them squarely amongst the pantheon of musicians they so obviously adore.
DOWNLOAD: “Dunes II,” “Eshra”