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White Willow – Future Hopes
Band – White Willow
Album – Future Hopes
Country of Origin – Norway
Genre – Progressive Rock
Release Date – March 31st, 2017
Label – Laser’s Edge
Author – BingGan
In this day and age of digital music, when few of us ever hold “product” (say, a CD) in our hands, we may never be exposed to album artwork. So it may seem strange to start this review by talking about an album cover, but any prog fan glancing at the cover of Future Hopes by Norwegian band White Willow will most certainly think of one name: Roger Dean, who for years has created covers for Yes and their spin-offs. Most likely, then, a progressive band like White Willow wears this as a badge of honor and probably welcomes the little extra attention that such packaging might bring.
But before we get too far with the Yes comparisons, it’s essential to talk about this album for what it is: a gorgeous, multi-textured work performed with tremendous artistic sensitivity. The voice of lead vocalist Sylvia Erichsen (a very welcome female voice in a genre dominated by men) floats effortlessly above the wash of synths and guitar work but is used very sparingly, and with the vocals mixed as quietly as they are, lyrics are largely unintelligible. Nevertheless, there is plenty of ear candy here by which to be thoroughly engaged and awestruck. Certainly, the band’s likely influences are evident– Pink Floyd-ish guitar work here, mid 70s Genesis-esque keyboards there– but the band offers up a very modern sound, using elements of traditional prog but eschewing the technical fireworks and endless solos for the sake of emphasizing atmospherics and soundscapes. Even the occasional electronic groove finds its way into an arrangement or two, and a freaked out Klezmer clarinet snakes its way through the track “Animal Magnetism.”
On its website, White Willow describe themselves as “art rock,” a term (if we do feel the need for genre identification) that fits better than “prog.” And it’s important to note that one can be “progressive” without being “prog,” and by saying “progressive,” we can understand that a band is seeking to stretch boundaries, explore new sonic territory, and create some magic of its own. White Willow deliver these qualities in abundance and have created a tremendous, memorable work that merits repeated listens.