"Dougy's Mind" (Album, 2009)
They may have significantly truncated their name since I last heard them (reflecting a line-up change), but Whiteberg (based around composer Emmanuel Whiteberg) have lost none of their unfettered ambition to produce what they themselves now describe as 'sonic artists'.
It's a challenge to know where to start in attempting to convey to you true wonikness of the unhinged unpredictability that awaits the unprepared listener. Although it's probably a tad futile to take this too literally, it does indeed seem to be the exploration of the innermost workings of the mind of a chap called Dougy; which mostly don't appear to be working - at least by conventional standards.
Initial impressions could easily be that this is an amateurish cobbling together of disparate musical styles (experimental, dance, gothic, alternative, pop, house, breakbeat), out of tune spoken lyrics and peculiar production techniques. A more considered judgement, though highly subjective and personal, is that whilst Dougy's Mind is still a mess, it is a deliberate mess with a concept and seriousness of intent that although not fully supported by the skill required to make it entirely convincing, is original to say the least. It's also wise enough to use irony so as not to come across as completely po-faced.
If, at its heart, surrealism is the juxtaposition of everyday things, brought together into a new, combined context then you could argue that Whiteberg's approach to writing and performance results in surreal music, drawing as it does on an eclectic range of cultural sources. Its 'punk-from-the-psyche-ward' bonkersness serves up moments of deranged wonder such as the ever-morphing Dark Earth Kiss. The occasional haunting quality of Whiteberg's voice can capture your emotions, only it is often in spite of the at-odds music. Most decidedly not for wide consumption, however, if you're on the look out for something different, you're quest is over. 7/10
Rob Dyer (May 2010)
"tao te ching" (Album, 2000)
Initially, whiteberggurdjieffouspenskimarinettiwhite appears to be one of the most ridiculously difficult to pronounce names you might have come across. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that it is made up of the surnames of the five band members (and neatly begins and finishes with the word 'white'). For a band with such a name then, it comes as something of a surprise to find that only one person, Emmanuel Whiteberg, is credited as composer, arranger and lyricist. He shares the production work with Mark White, but all of them perform on the five doom laden pieces contained in the mini-album from this Whiltshire-based outfit.
It could just be me, but the appeal of tao te ching seems heavily to depend on what mood you're in. When I gave this an initial, cursory listen, I wasn't very impressed. Second time (and listening in detail) I was quite taken by the strength of character whiteberggurdjieffouspenskimarinettiwhite displayed. Third time around I found myself focusing on its many shortcomings. Since then, I've settled somewhere between the two extremes. Style wise it must be said that Joy Division have to be a huge influence on whiteberg... Having said that, they certainly don't set out to merely emulate their heroes but seek to create a similarly intense, serious and 'artistic' form of music. Whilst their talents are not yet up to their ambitions (their portentous promotional flyers declaring: "...an experimental music ensemble...consists of 5 artists", going on to mention kicking against "the norms created by contemporary western society" etc. etc.), there's definitely a distinctive mood and style to this album.
Like Ian Curtis (one assumes it is) Whiteberg's vocals are often out of tune and strained due to lack of training or natural talent. However, also like Ian Curtis, the vocals (mostly) transcend their physical limitations with their ernest and honest intonation. The lyrics emphasise a Gothic sensibility and are best taken as mood creating wails and cries rather than as any kind of literary works of art one suspects the band would like them to be. The music is swathed in acres of reverb and although perhaps an obvious atmospheric device perfectly suits whiteberg...'s style. The simplicity of some tracks (rudimentary basslines and drums) can often be misleading as the overall effect on songs like dark empire and heaven earth is far stronger than their component parts might suggest. The standard of recording on this self-released CD is shaky in places and a better mix would certainly help. However, some elements would only be improved by re-recording from scratch. Ignoring the shortcomings, some of tao te ching is very promising and, despite the influences, pretty distinctive in its own right. More practice, more attention to detail, bouncing ideas of others and an external producer/mixer could do wonders for whiteberggurdjieffouspenskimarinettiwhite. 6/10
For a different interpretation of the Tao Te Ching see Hold Music by Dacianos
Tim Perkins & Alan Moore
Official Whiteberg website: http://members.tripod.co.uk/whiteberg/net