The first thing you’ll think when you hear White Williams’ Smoke for the first time is, “Have I put on a Hot Chip CD by mistake?”
It’s probably a coincidence, but Cleveland-born Williams’ little-boy-lost croon is a dead ringer for Alexis Taylor’s, and the elegantly crafted pop miniatures which comprise his debut LP bring to mind the ‘Chip at their most doleful and direct.
Compare most young artists to Hot Chip and they’re going to come out unfavourably, but even in such esteemed company 24-year-old White, known to his friends and family as Joe, holds his own. Having started out his musical life playing in abrasive noise bands, Williams soon became enamoured of electronics and began to make machine music under the alias So Red. But he found himself missing the compositional challenges afforded by the guitar: “Funnily enough, producing computer music I found it easier to write songs; it was more tangible for me. Writing with instruments I didn’t have the same kind of intuition – it took a lot longer. It was more of a mystery.”
“But my desire to computer edit was still there. I’d listen to a lot of music by Autechre and the other Warp artists, where the sound is always treated. And though the technology was less advanced, I could see that a lot of music from a long time ago, The Idiot for example, was working with the same principles. I like the idea of things never being left alone.”
A sometime graphic designer, Williams holds the visual aspect of his art to be at least as crucial as the music. Fantastical though it first appears, the photo that adorns the cover of Smoke is a recreation of a real life occurrence: “I was at this party and there was a girl there who was hurt in some way, emotionally, like her boyfriend had been shitty to her something, and she was sat there, crying, I mean bawling, really upset, but holding tightly onto her hookah pipe continuing to smoke pot. She wouldn’t let go. I don’t know if you can adequately imagine, but it was really fucking strange.”