CD Signal to Noise [White Willow] (CD 989503),
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Signal to Noise [White Willow]

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    At first, White Willow had a reputation for providing folk-rock. As time passed, however, the Norwegian outfit came to be considered more of a progressive rock outfit. But to categorize their fifth album, Signal to Noise, as strictly prog rock doesn't quite do them justice; actually, what makes this CD intriguing is the way they combine progressive rock and goth rock -- specifically, the style of goth rock that is known as "ethereal underground" or "ethereal goth." Some have described that type of goth as "shoegazer goth" because of its similarity to the shoegazer/dream pop style (as in My Bloody Valentine, the Cocteau Twins, the Cardigans, Medicine and early Lush). And Signal to Noise definitely has an ethereal quality -- ethereal and enchanting as well as moody, darkly poetic and melancholy. There is some of the King Crimson/Yes/Pink Floyd aesthetic on this 2006 release, but there is also a lot for fans of Diva Destruction, Faith & the Muse, Tara Vanflower and even Tori Amos -- and the prog rock element seems especially interesting in light of the fact that White Willow has a female lead singer: Trude Eidtang. While female singers are quite plentiful in goth, prog rock has been very male-dominated -- and hearing Eidtang's goth-drenched vocals alongside the prog keyboard and guitar textures is unusual. If one is asked to categorize this 51-minute disc, it's best to cover the bases and say that goth rock, prog rock, shoegazer/dream pop, alternative pop-rock and art rock are all part of the game plan. And "The Dark Road" demonstrates that White Willow hasn't totally abandoned folk-rock, although that track isn't typical of the album on the whole. Along the way, White Willow have had more than their share of personnel changes; on Signal to Noise, the lineup includes new lead singer Eidtang as well as keyboardist Lars Fredrik Froislie, guitarist Jacob Holm-Lupo, bassist Marthe Berger Walthinsen, drummer Aage Moltke Schou and woodwind player Ketil Vestrum Einarsen. Bands that have as many personnel changes as White Willow can easily become inconsistent or erratic, but consistency is not a problem on this highly engaging CD. ~ Alex Henderson

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