Review: Thewhitehorse – White Rock (Deathbed Tapes, Feb 10)

For Sean E. Matzus’s solo wall project Thewhitehorse, the creative mantra is firmly “quality over quantity.” According to Discogs, since 2010 there have been just 21 releases credited to the alias, a number that many contemporary wallers rack up in less than a years’ time. The more sparing, judicious approach Matzus takes is palpable in each of his releases, whether it’s last year’s single-track monolith Wine-Dark Sea, 2018’s ambitious 3-CD opus The Spirit of the Lonely Places, or the various Twin Peaks homages he’s released over the years (e.g. This Is the WaterAn Eternity of Black and Red, “Laura’s Angel”)—each feels like an event, something special. White Rock is no different, and in fact might be my favorite Thewhitehorse material I’ve heard so far. Complemented by the always excellent black and white noise-collage aesthetic of Deathbed Tapes (like a more tasteful and evolved version of stereotypical “noise art”), Matzus presents a C32 with two somber, lonely walls, each thick and dense and immersive yet with a very free sense of motion, like tattered shrouds whipping in the wind. “Polly Williams” materializes as dark, oppressive layers, the atmosphere somewhat light and meditative but opaque enough to still feel like complete imprisonment. The apocalyptic rumble and crumble is amped up on “Lover’s Leap” along with the addition of a distant, higher-pitched element that I can never seem to put my finger on or describe. White Rock is the sound of ancient boulders tumbling down a never-ending cliff, forgotten immortal giants stirring in primordial depths, the black nothingness of reality finally closing in. How it manages to evoke such things in just over half an hour, I’m not sure.

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