Compton White

Compton White

When TNGHT released their debut EP four years ago, fans and critics lamented the fact that it was simply not long enough. The very same criticism is perhaps the only one that can be fairly levelled at Compton White’s self-titled debut: at just under 20 minutes, “quality over quantity” is quite clearly the intention.

Though biographical information is scarce, one can glean that White – real name Lloyd Whittle – is from a lineage of Travelling showmen, and has lived his life between the Isle of Wight and London. As such, his album is steeped in nostalgia for a childhood spent between two radically different settings – juxtaposing the chaotic and the calm, the urban and the pastoral, the contemporary and the sentimental.

On listening, the first thing to really hit home are the album’s varied musical influences: the first song, ‘Track 2’, is driven by a simple yet beautiful melody around which contorted vocal samples weave and clusters of falling drums stumble. At times, the textures of the synths recall sounds that formed the bedrock of the classic Warp Records sound (such as the acidic bleeps of LFO). White’s contemplative guitar riff, peppering ‘Track 2’, also echoes Campfire Headphase-era Boards of Canada and perhaps even the The Beach Boys. Similar influences can be heard on the new Avalanches album, Wildflower. With the Avalanches, however, one is always made aware of the referential nature of their music, whereas for White, his familiarity with the work of past masters never reaches the point of mimicry, remaining faithful to his own sound.

The following, all too brief interlude ‘Intro’ – ostensibly a genuine shout out to the producer lifted from a pirate radio station – segues into ‘Hounslow’, a punishing, industrial track; at once unstoppable in momentum, and yet sounding always as if everything might just fall apart at any given moment. The cadence of White’s jagged drum beat merges with heavy, industrial synths to capture the cruel rhythms of urban life, creating a sound that would not have felt out of place on Kanye West’s Yeezus. Crucially, however, White reels in these violent tonal impulses, enacting a swift change in register in the track’s conclusion with a chorus of reversed, childlike vocals.

‘Double Diamond’ offers another dramatic tonal shift. Blissed out and wistful, the song has a dynamic swing to it, in complete contrast to ‘Hounslow’. The chorus of children’s voices embedded deep in the mix are evocative of childhood without overpowering the track with nostalgia for youth. Something that is, again, gently suggested visually in the unsophisticated scrawl on the back of the record sleeve, redolent of Oneohtrix Point Never’s Garden Of Delete, without ever feeling like pastiche.

The final track on the album, ominously titled ‘Mainland’, is the greatest signifier of White’s having lived a life split down the middle. Seguing from the sounds of lashing rain and howling wind which conjure the natural rhythms of pastoral Island life (or perhaps the crackle of a forgotten nineties dubplate), White manoeuvres back into those sounds which are so much a part of Hounslow; moody, heavy, coruscating synths paired with emotionally detached industrial timbres.

For an album constructed around highly contrasting sonics, Compton White could very well have ended up a mess. But White’s wordless telling of an intensely personal tale, capturing the motions of a life lived in two opposing worlds, sees it well clear of possible disarray. Ultimately, then, this young and enigmatic producer might just be the one of the few pleasant surprises to come out of a punishing 2016, condensing the whole spectrum of human emotions down to just two sides of vinyl.

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