White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone
With TesseracT and Skyharbor, british Singer extraordinaire Daniel Tompkins managed to climb the modern prog metal throne in just a few years time. Those who hunger for more of his unique timbre on top of meaty djent riffs and polyrhythmic grooves will need to wait for that next TesseracT record that is hopefully coming in 2018. For those who don’t shy away from the word ‘pop’, Tompkins even released two excellent albums, both very different though. With Zeta, you will get classic electronic 80s pop. White Moth Black Butterfly on the other hand, his collaboration with his ex-Skyharbor bandmate Keshav Dhar and singer Jordan Turner, explores more subdued worlds of art and chamber pop.
Right off the start with the album intro of sorts, ‘I Incarnate’ it is very clear that “Atone”, the project’s second full length release, is gonna be one thing above all: extremely delicate and beautiful. Tompkins’ voice matches perfectly with the chamber string ensemble, before a french horn takes over the melody. The segue into the soft groove of ‘Rising Suns’ and a stunningly soft falsetto start into the verse from Daniel is just marvellous. His singing partner in crime, Jordan Turner, shows her own unique fragile timbre for the first in the chorus. Since this style is not my favorite with female singers, I had trouble getting into it at first, but with repeated listens, it slowly started to make sense – and clicked in the end.
‘Tempest’ starts off with a piano/keyboard textures driven atmosphere, before some tribal drumming drives the song to its cinematic climax. A cello theme over a slow electronic pop groove builds the foundation for the melodies of ‘An Ocean Away’, and when Jordan takes over from Daniel, it is that very moment when I realize that her ‘thin’ voice matches perfectly with this kind of slow and subtle art pop. The following ‘Symmetry’ surprises with operatic female vocal ad libs in the background, and I’m not entirely sure if they really come from the same person we have come to know with that very soft voice.
Soft harp arpeggios, violin and cello taking over from Daniel, before a wordless melody from Jordan, that is best described as innocent, concludes the song; that is ‘II Penitence’. ‘The Sage’ brings more harp, an unexpected instrumental break with a traditional asian folk instrument and flute before concluding into a more normal version of the refrain, complete with electronic pop groove, beautiful bass line and a classic string arrangement.
‘The Serpent’ is (after ‘Rising Sun’) the second song to have an organic, proggy bass groove with an acoustic drum sound. The title track ‘Atone’ is piano based again, while the penultimate ‘III Deep Earth’ is pure mystic soundscape with vocal ad libs only a Daniel Tompkins could come up with and pull it off effortlessly. ‘Evelyn’ then closes the album in exemplary fashion with the full band and more operatic vocals in the middle part.
“Atone” is a soft, a quiet and a slow album. It is beautiful, mesmerizing and soothing. The highest recommendation for fans of Daniel Tompkins’ amazing voice and of course all art pop lovers in general. One of the most, if not THE single-most beautiful album of 2017.