Review: WHITE SUNS – “Psychic Drift”

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NYC’s White Suns continue to subvert genre conventions and deconstruct and subsequently reinvent themselves on their newest recording, Psychic Drift.

The noise duo’s previous two releases, Sinews (2012) and Totem (2014), were praised for their unrelenting abrasiveness and unorthodox compositions. Walls of harsh noise collide head-on with pummeling, erratic drumming and malformed, shrieking guitar riffs, creating a uncomfortable atmosphere designed to weed out the weak. Each release shows the band becoming more and more intense, while gradually moving in different sonic directions.

Psychic Drift is the newest chapter in the band’s sonic ebb and flow, showcasing an even further drift from any semblance to noise rock, or their version of “noise rock” in this case. This four-track, 40-minute work is devoid of guitars and drums and instead focuses on creating sprawling, uneasy soundscapes that serve as soundtracks to existential meltdowns. The band have created experimental noise pieces in the past, but Psychic Drift is more textural, detailed and haunting than these previous works.


The album immediately throttles the listener on the monstrous, 14-minute opener “Korea”. Piercing layers of synth-generated sound rattle throughout listener’s skulls as myriads of samples are dissected, reshaped and thrown back into the unruly sonic mixture. Tortured vocals yell out among an ever evolving barrage of aural terror, which pulsates, reverberates and shrieks throughout its grueling duration. The song, and the entire album really, is a test of will and strength. Even when the track dials back its overbearing onslaught, anxiety-inducing percussive sounds and repetitive wailing effects keep the listener on edge as the track gradually climbs back to pure noise hell.

The madness continues into “Pilgrim”, which conjures over six minutes of choking, electronic buzzing and seismic, throbbing bass. Its thick walls of malevolent sound twitch, writhe and constantly morph throughout, never once allowing the listener any breathing room. The slow-burning, 10-minute “A Year Without Summer” follows next and is arguably the record’s standout piece. The track slowly builds from minimal electronic pulsing, with plenty of unnerving samples for added impact, to glitching, intermittent harsh noise during its initial moments. The song slowly becomes more and more abrasive as it unloads earsplitting white noise attacks at random intervals during its final act. Though the track ends on a more calm, albeit creepy note, the damage has already been done.

Cavernous, hollow soundscapes echo eerily during the opening seconds of the closing track, “Medicine Walk”, before drilling, buzzing and nightmare-fueled sounds come into view. These torturous noise assaults eventually morph into soaring, metallic and reverberating  sound that steadily decays into electronic murmur and sinister, dripping water sound clips. Here White Suns bring Psychic Drift to a close, leaving listeners to question their sanity long after it concludes.

Noise and experimental music of this caliber are very polarizing, so naturally Psychic Drift isn’t for everyone. Even fans of the band’s previous works might be taken aback by the direction they take on this album, though in all honesty its not a surprising direction given the band’s history.

But unlike most noise music, which tends to sound like a completely directionless assault on the senses, Psychic Drift is much more “organized” and purposeful. Every blip, shriek, drone and sonic shift is placed carefully to change the mood of the track or to completely obliterate the listener at the right moment. Even those who are not keen to this type of music can appreciate White Suns‘ craft on this delightfully disturbing piece.

Rating: 7/10
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Label: The Flenser
Favorite Track: “A Year Without Summer”
For Fans Of: Nurse With Wound, Merzbow and Demdike Stare

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