It seems to be the case that whenever hip-hop production has stagnated, somebody appears on the scene from out of nowhere to light the way out for everyone else. Shadow and RJ have both been those somebodies in the past; White is one of those somebodies right now. Because instrumental hip hop has seemed so stunted in recent years (to me at least) it’s refreshing to witness someone so clearly unbound by pre-conceived notions of what the genre should sound like. For White, like the illustrious company I’ve lumped him with, the rule book was tossed out the window long ago, leaving just a sampler and a seemingly bottomless crate of delightfully obscure vinyl.
Armed with a formidable reservoir of raw material (his day job was working as a library producer for the BBC) and a deft touch with the MPC , he flexes more creativity in the less than 45 minutes of this debut than many “producers” could muster over a career of writing tracks. We’re talking Madlib amounts of ideas. Though if we’re going to continue the analogy, I’d have to say that what the Beat Konducta is to jazz, White is to progressive rock.
Strange Dreams… incorporates snippets of reggae, funk, and hazy electronica along with vintage soul vocals and snatches of world music that coagulate with stiff, snapping rhythms; symphonic orchestrations and copious amounts of cheesed, arena-style synth organs and wanky guitar noodling. The resulting product is a fantastically quirky kind of prog-hop. The tracks are short, averaging less than 2 minutes long, and punctuated by various bizarre samples from arcane British film, television, and advertisements. They would almost leave one wanton for more but, like little haikus, are actually complete unto themselves; brief as they may be.
This is all executed in a tongue and cheek manner (as if it could be done any other way) and riddled with cartoon-y weirdness that evokes a certain nostalgia. But nostalgia in the most sincere of terms as White manages to avoid ever sounding forced or pretentious. Time Wars, for instance, is hip hop that manages to recall some cheesy, over-the-top American-Gladiators battle theme. While The Uprising of the Insane, with it’s ridiculously catchy pitched-up vocal sample, stomps with an off-kilter originality that immediately turned my head. But, perhaps no other track sums up this zany dopeness better than the funky strut of the extra-terrestrial-synth-led Alien Nature.
Though you'll find this on itunes, if you go straight to Paul himself he offers a variety of different packages (through Bandcamp) which range from a high quality digital download for £5 all the way up to a “£300: high-quality download, ltd edition handmade, hand-stamped pillowcase CD and a pair of exclusive beats made from samples of your choosing mastered & cut to dubplate.” (Wow!).