Music

Blanco White Yearns for Home on Debut 'On the Other Side'

Photo: Sequoia Ziff / Courtesy of Shore Fire Media

British singer-songwriter Blanco White's debut full-length On The Other Side seeks to translate Spanish and Latin influences into a dreamy pop sound, for better and for worse.

On the Other Side
Blanco White

Yucatan Records

5 June 2020

Blanco White's debut LP draws a line in the sand early on. On the Other Side is dedicated to "the children of another life" in its stirring opener, those who find themselves lost in the world's vast and gorgeous expanse, reaching for meaning in a fluid notion of home. "So, for now, it's only a long night, it can't go on and on," the title track reassures, though that promise is fraught from the beginning. This record is in motion from its first notes, yearning for something solid to hold with a pensive and mournful air.

There's a palpable wanderlust suffusing every second of On the Other Side, but for Josh Edwards—the British singer-songwriter behind the deeply unsubtle nom de plume of Blanco White—finding a home in unfamiliar landscapes is not necessarily anything new. Edwards left his native London to craft his sound from Spanish flamenco and Argentine bailecito and cueca, training in Cadiz and then Bolivia to hone his sound in the textures of Spain and Latin America. What results is an album that hits the ear like one long reverie, as Blanco White's gentle, dreamlike folk washes over the listener in a wave. Each song strives to create a sense of place: not necessarily a real one, but reflections of the regions Edwards owes his craft to, ranging from South America to Somalia and back to the rural southern hills of his beloved Spain.

Which isn't to say that On the Other Side smacks of some kind of vanity project, at least not outright. Edwards' soft warble calls on the inherent vocal drama of flamenco just as handily as the romance of cueca, blended with a stringent and practiced pop heart. There's a solemn and earnest love in this act of translation, most obviously in the theatrical guitar and Andean charango of "I Belong to You" and "All That Matters". At some moments, the album feels like an intellectual exercise as much as a sonic one. There's a heartbroken meditation on loss and solitude takes its title from Henri Charrière's novel Papillon. The furtive funk of "Samara" borrows generously to Somalian '80s groups like Dur Dur Band. The electronic tones of "Desert Days" owes its central metaphor to Jorge-Luís Borges' short story "The Two Kings and The Two Labyrinths".

Blanco White's mission is starting in its lucidity here, pairing these deeply-rooted cultural styles and references with a sense of deep loss and longing. Standout "Olalla" touchingly laments the rustic towns and villages of southern Spain left behind by a rapidly modernizing world. "Kauai O'o" eulogizes the civilizations and nature ravaged by human excess: "Everywhere I run, I hear only silence," Edwards cries in the refrain, a beautiful sound met only with the echoes of the album's production.

Even with Edwards' clear reverence for the musical heritage he draws his sound from, it's difficult at times to understand Blanco White in concept as more than zealous tourism. Edwards isn't shy about his influences, and his guitar work alone is impressive enough to speak to his training and skill. But for all his earnest immersion in the genres he sows together here, there's a nagging unease biting at the album's heels by the end, questioning whether these stories, cribbed from the vastness of both European and Latin traditions, are his to tell, or if these stories lose their impact in his voice. Perhaps it's to the album's credit, then, that Blanco White—and Edwards himself—aren't truly centered over the album's runtime. Rather, On the Other Side feels comfortably satisfied with its nomadic sensibility, genuinely awed in its pursuit of home in a deep and enduring sonic tradition.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Texas Gentlemen Share the Powerful and Soulful "Last Call" (premiere)

Eclectic Texas band, the Texas Gentlemen return with a vibrant, imaginative LP that resists musical boundaries. Hear their latest epic single, "Last Call".

Music

Vincent Cross Pays Tribute to Folk Hero via "King Corcoran" (premiere)

Gangs of New York-era James "The Rooster" Corcoran was described as the terror of New York's east side. His descendent, Vincent Cross, retells his story with a "modern dark fairy tale".

Music

Eddy Lee Ryder Gets Lonely and Defiant with "Expected to Fly" (premiere)

Eddy Lee Ryder explores the loss of friendship and refusal to come of age, cloaked in the deeply dramatic and powerful song, "Expected to Fly".

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Film

Creative Disruption in 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

Portrait of a Lady on Fire yearns to burn tyrannical gendered tradition to ash and remake it into something collaborative and egalitarian.

Music

Fave Five: The Naked and Famous

Following two members leaving the group in 2018, synthpop mavens the Naked and Famous are down to a duo for the first time ever and discuss the records they turned to help make their aptly-named fourth record, Recover.

Evan Sawdey
Books

Fleetwood Dissects the European Mindset in His Moody, Disturbing Thriller, 'A Young Fair God'

Hugh Fleetwood's difficult though absorbing A Young Fair God offers readers a look into the age-old world views that have established and perpetuated cultural rank and the social attitudes that continue to divide us wherever we may reside in the world.

Music

Art Feynman Creates Refreshing Worldbeat Pop on 'Half Price at 3:30'

On Half Price at 3:30, Art Feynman again proves himself adept at building colorful worlds from unexpected and well-placed aural flourishes.

Music

The Beths Are Sharp As Ever on 'Jump Rope Gazers'

New Zealand power-poppers the Beths return with a sophomore album that makes even the most senior indie-rock acts feel rudimentary by comparison.

Music

Jessie Ware Returns to Form on 'What's Your Pleasure'

On What's Your Pleasure, Jessie Ware returns to where it all began, the dance floor.

Music

The Jayhawks Offer Us Some 'XOXO'

The Jayhawks offer 12-plus songs on XOXO to help listeners who may be alone and scared by reminding us that we are all alone together.

Music

Steve McDonald Remembers the Earliest Days of Redd Kross

Steve McDonald talks about the year that produced the first Redd Kross EP, an early eighth-grade graduation show with a then-unknown Black Flag, and a punk scene that welcomed and defined him.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.