Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WHITEHOUSE "QUALITY TIME" (Very Friendly/Susan Lawly)

Eerily subdued mid-90's record from Whitehouse. Normally trading in extreme electronic detritus and harsh, raging white noise attack Whitehouse instead opt for a much more "subtle" demonstration of what they do. Recorded by none other than Steve Albini the obvious expectation for this record is harshness and i find it telling that Whitehouse choose to go for a more calming sound here, trading on their own reputation and that of their chosen engineer. The sixtracks making up "Quality Time" all traffic in restraint sonically; even those few moments that scream out from a noise perspective are presented in a such a manner as to be almost soothing and comforting, like a gentle hand stroking a frightened kitten. As punishing as these sounds become, they never reach any level of grate, instead levelling out at frequencies and volumes that showcase a sort of relaxing effect. The lyrics are, as always, misogynistic and violent, conjuring up images of women reduced to completely subservient demeaned positions in life, capable of being either whores or victims of abuse and little else. Men are cast only as sexual beings with little judgment passed on their motivations for so being and that's probably the most disturbing aspect of Whitehouse's overall aesthetic. Despite a track title like "Just Like A Cunt" there's never a feeling of overindulgence because these guys have been doing this since their inception. They've never pretended to be otherwise and that honesty promotes a willingness to bear witness to their statements. Peter Sotos casts his ever-increasing shadow over the group on this record; his interest in both anonymous, violent sexual encounters and power via child abuse hold a sickening grasp over the subject matter at this point in the band's career. By far the most disturbing track is "Baby"-three minutes of a youngster gurgling in the bathtub, rendered into something horrifying by the addition of low end bass rumble and an endless editing of the infant's vocals into something resembling prolonged, agonized sobs. It paints an incredibly difficult portrait and few artists would be willing to even think of descending into such a bleak, morally void realm of existence. Who does this kind of shit? How could you even populate that headspace and fit in to normal society? Whitehouse offers no answers, but their depiction of the question is frighteningly arresting.

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