White Noise — Your Hidden Dreams
from An Electric Storm (1969)
Wow. Spectacular find by the folks over at Broken Lyres. (Whom you should follow if you don’t already…great, eclectic selection of tunes.)
At any rate, this is some out-there, sine-wave style synth pop, created with this beautiful monster, the Electronic Music Studios’ VCS3:
This synth later became a workhorse of the music industry, appearing on albums by Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Stereolab and Aphex Twin, among others. And it all started right here… Read on for more, including the Dr Who connection, below.
If you even loosely follow modern trends in experimental music, you may be a little confused as to where it all came from. Labels such as Not Not Fun, Ghost Box, and Olde English Spelling Bee have been pushing these tunes that all feel like the decaying tones of a somewhat remembered song. Artists like Forest Swords and Hype Williams (now Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland) purposefully use heavily manipulated and damaged sounding instruments to try to recall a warped soundtrack to an old VHS you may have. So where did it all come from?
Early traces can be seen in the works of White Noise, a very early electronic group that partially emerged out of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop of the 60’s. The band’s debut album, An Electric Storm, is an utterly unique piece of electronic pop, which artists to this day feel indebted to. The group’s unique sound is mostly the work of Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson, two sound enthusiasts who composed works for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (fun pieces of Dr. Who trivia - Hodgson is responsible for the sounds of the Tardis and the way Daleks speak; Derbyshire created the electronic version of the Dr. Who theme). Derbyshire and Hodgson were early proponents of synthesized sounds, creating their early electronic pieces entirely of manipulated tape loops of electronically generated tones. The tones they created are still eerie even this day, and their pieces are laden with effects that just weren’t heard outside of experimental music.
White Noise’s uniqueness draws from the combination of those odd sounding tones with very loose pop songwriting. Synthesizer based rock tunes will slide and echo off into a realm of pure reverberated sound and then return again in a different form. Sounds of cars (or perhaps spaceships) drift by while an angelic voice sings sweetly just for you. And everything becomes disorienting yet alluring.