A few years ago, I was introduced to a Norwegian prog rock group by the name of White Willow and their album Terminal Twilight. I was 100% blown away. The album was a gorgeous blend of synthesizers, odd time signatures, haunting vocals, and eerie melodic passages. It has remained one of my absolute favorite releases of the past 10 years and I keep coming back to it, over and over again.
For a little taste, listen to “Hawks Circle The Mountain“. Nearly precisely in the middle is a passage that continuously takes my breath away. Melancholic with a dash of suspense, I always pause whatever I’m doing for this moment.
Now, White Willow is rearing their head again, preparing themselves for not one but two new albums that will be released over the next year.
The band states:
Later this year White Willow will release a full-length album that will be part 1 of a 2-part concept, just to make sure it’ll all be sufficiently proggy. The 2nd album is slated for an early 2016 release.
To kick this off, they’re released a cover of “Animal Magnetism”, originally written by The Scorpions. The track maintains that sense of eeriness that I’ve been describing, all overlaid by the delicate vocals of new singer Venke Knutson.
Below is a stream of the song as well as a large quote from main songwriter Jacob Holm-Lupo. Make sure to pick up the track via iTunes.
From frontman Jacob Holm-Lupo:
So finally, some new music from us. Our fans have learnt to expect the unexpected from us, but this is unusual even by our standards, so I thought I’d give some background on this single.
First of all, let me welcome our new singer, the absolutely fantastic Venke Knutson. Some of you know her from the last The Opium Cartel album. Norwegians know her from the radio waves where her hits have been in rotation for a decade. We are extremely pleased and thankful to have her onboard.
Then the tune: Those of you who’ve read Bryan Reesman’s liner notes to our Storm Season reissue know that Scorpions were a major inspiration behind that album. I absolutely love the Scorps, and especially their late 70s/early 80s phase. They had – and have – something really unique. So I decided to cover “Animal Magnetism”, which is probably my favorite Scorpions tune. But I wanted to do it in our own way, by paying tribute to Scorpions’ kraut roots. Although they have become known for a very “international” sound, an expansive, radio and arena friendly hard rock that goes down just as well in the US as in Europe, they started out with some fairly experimental and decidedly krauty records not a million miles removed from early Eloy, for example. So I decided to introduce some Tangerine Dream style electronics to reinforce that kraut connection. Lars of course provided the synthesizer magic.
Once the arrangement started taking shape, with a nice, gloomy, electronic kraut sound, doomy motorik drums from Mattias and Venke’s cool, Nordic vocals on top I thought that I really needed a contrast to all that icy, Northern stuff. What would be a starkly human element that I could inject? The absolutely most human sound I know of apart from the human voice is the klezmer clarinet – it embodies all the ecstasy and agony of the human condition. The fact that “Animal Magnetism” already has a Middle Eastern tonality to it made the idea perfect in my mind. And the best klezmer clarinetist in the world is David Krakauer, so I contacted him and asked if he was interested – and he was! And that’s how this whole, crazy thing came together. Scorpions, modular moogs, clarinets and a gorgeous soothing voice.
It’s not prog in the traditional sense, I’ll grant you that, but it certainly feels like an interesting step forward all the same. When the two full-length albums are released there’ll be more of the stuff you expect – mellotrons, fluttering flutes and 15/8. But for now I want you to open your mind to this weirdness.