A circle has no beginning and no end. It’s a form that suggests movement and embraces unity. Both in concept and sound, it’s the shape of White Denim’s fifth studio album, D.
Combined influences have been the most prominent aspect of White Denim’s sound. Across their catalog, the band has melted together psych, jazz, punk, dub, blues, and garage rock, in an ambitious slew covering every structure from upbeat and hook-heavy, to languid jam sessions. They’re musicians’ musicians; the kind of band whose mastery is immediate to anyone who’s ever studied music theory, or played in a band. With its gentle, classic rock leaning sound, D is the most muted, but structurally elevated of the band’s releases. Rambling guitar lines chase from one track to the next, uniting the album in massive, intertwined crop circles.
Each track employs a varied level of a certain cache of sounds; chugging bass, bright strums, rock riffs, considered percussion and occasional well-placed string and woodwind bursts. Which combine and shift into different styles; jazz meets classic rock on “Back At The Farm”, the twang of country blues lightened by folk sweeps on “Keys” and the world fusion sounds of “River To Consider”, to name a few of the many. The stylistic shifts naturally unfold, in what is a slow-morphing, ever-moving, sonic mass.
White Denim are just as agile vocally as they are capable of complex instrumentation, but D is a showcase of the latter, and most of the vocal dexterity that made Fits stand out, is missing here. The vocals act in soft tones, bolstering the instrumentation, creating a mood of relaxed drifting. The band make easy instrumental shifts from mellow to bold rock, but seem hesitant to follow suit vocally. “Is And Is And Is” tries the format out with rousing results, giving the added oomph that if had appeared more often, would have taken D from a really good album, to best of the year contender.