(Album out October 30)
These days, most purveyors of electronic music aim to get the kids dancing. And while that’s not a bad thing–dance music is completely essential for human survival, I’ll be the first to admit that–it’s really rare to come across thoughtful and complex electronic music that isn’t too technical, brooding and morose, or worse, experimentally self-indulgent. Enter Joe Williams, the 23-year-old musical mastermind behind the one-man art-pop outfit White Williams, whose layered sound is simultaneously nostalgic–grabbing influence from early incarnations of electronica and glam-y space rock–while still being precociously innovative.
On his debut album Smoke, Williams enchants with a bold sonic statement that’s rooted firmly in the stoic robotics of Kraftwerk–except with a perceptible soulfulness instead of their severe Germanic austerity–combined with a futuristic aesthetic that delicately balances arresting harmonies with dissonant noise. That said, it’s hard to peg White Williams directly to any one group or genre for that matter. Instead Williams skillfully appropriates tones and techniques of electronic masters, incorporating the atmospheric elegance of Brian Eno, the glamour of David Bowie’s sequined opulence of Ziggy Stardust as well as his Low-era’s paired-down minimalist grooves, Kraftwerk's cold modernism and the airy, subtle refinement of Radio Dept.
Smoke, like the name suggests, slowly creeps into your subconscious, lurking in the corners until Williams’ brand of brainy avant-pop fully smothers you. Songs like the playful Sparks-meets-Giorgio Moroder opener “Headlines” and the guitar-heavy stomp of “New Violence” recall a more glamorous era of glitter, disco dollies and decadence that would make the corkscrew dandy Marc Bolan proud, while the slinky synth of “Danger” with its lyrical minimalism–Williams repeats the couplet “danger danger” in tandem with haunting background vocals–and electronic wizardry feels undeniably modern. Williams even does a solid cover of Bow Wow Wow’s iconic ’80s classic “I want Candy” minus all the frivolous froth. Be sure to come see White Williams when he plays the Fillmore along with Girl Talk on Saturday, September 29. This is a show not to miss.