White Suns make noise. You could say that they are avant garde, but that doesn’t make it any more accessible to ‘cool art students’ because the eight tracks that appear on Totem dismiss any conceptions of what you believed to be ‘noise rock’. This isn’t just Sonic Youth or Shellac, this is beating your instruments into another dimension held together by spoken-word.
Opener ‘Priest in the Laboratory’ is wild and if you can sit through the entirety of it, there may be a hope that you’ll be able to sit through the rest of the album. ‘Prostrate’ is ‘ambient’ if you class ‘ambient’ as tearing down walls of sanity with rusty forks. That’s what Totem is, it’s the sound of a rusty fork etching its way into your skin.
‘Disjecta Membra’ is almost an incoherent mess, but there is some sort of shape to these songs, much like how drone has shape within the songs (see Sleeps’ Dopesmoker). ‘Fossil Record’ is interesting, the noise repeats on itself and actually manages to hold together into something listenable and engaging instead of being relentless and almost unwelcome.
‘Clairvoyant’ has that lyric ‘My God’s face is made of mirrors, my god’s face looks like my fathers’, followed by cries of ‘bleed it out, bleed it out, bleed it out, bleed it out’; there is pain in this record, on both ends.
I think I just don’t ‘get it’. Maybe in the future I will come back to Totem and see it as a wonderful work of art, or maybe it’ll hit some sort of revered cult status. It’s incomprehensible nature will actually warrant it ‘classic’ status. Right now though, I’m not sure if I want to spend any more time with the album. It’s not draining in anyway, as it’s not really that long, it’s only forty minutes. However, the album doesn’t, at the moment, excite me. If you can get through the first track see the album through and then either run out of the room never to play the album again or order a pizza and listen to Totem again and again until you hit that breakthrough moment and then tell all your friends about this ‘unknown masterpiece’ only for them to go back to listening to Kanye West and speculating what his new album will sound like.