White Poppy - Natural Phenomena (photo:: )
Album reviews
White Poppy
Natural Phenomena
Release year:
Not Not Fun Records
13 September 2015 / by Matthew Blenkarn (author)

I don’t envy the writer who tries to pigeonhole White Poppy’s music. Throughout her 2013 debut LP, Crystal Dorval compiled musical styles like your grandma collects fabric, stitching them together to form a warm sonic quilt. Disparate elements weave among each other, plaid with stripes, live drums with dense textures. Like that quilt, White Poppy felt both cobbled together and comfortable, even as it got fuzzy or the fluff escaped and floated around your living room.


To put a tired simile to bed, Natural Phenomena is not like a quilt. It feels cool where White Poppy was warm and, contrary to its patchwork cover, it’s synthesized and cohesive. Dorval has always drawn from a wide pool, but it’s harder to fish for influences with this album. Where “Wear Me Away” sounded like “Love Will Tear Us Apart”’s kid brother, “Wild Mind” is more of a distant relative, introducing a Martin Hannett beat into a new genetic line. “Ambient” is the closest descriptor for Dorval’s music, though “Joyride” took White Poppy to Dusseldorf with a slinky Krautrock bassline. Natural Phenomena rarely leaves the Berlin school, but its tracks are no less diverse.


That’s partially because White Poppy has always redefined instead of blending or copying. Natural Phenomena highlights Dorval’s gift for arranging disparate, conflicting parts into a singular, panoramic space. A distorted industrial beat is rendered soothing within thirty seconds on “Sublimity,” while jagged textures are sanded away with repetition on “Ebb and Flow.” “Confusion” is nearly tropical, with a bassline that sounds like Panda Bear in his Person Pitch days, but Dorval’s synthesizers simultaneously evoke an Arctic tundra, either desolate and spacious or stinging like frost.


With each successive project, it gets harder to see the stitches in Dorval’s designs. But if you keep watching closely, you’ll see that White Poppy is clearly cut from a finer cloth.

The author

Matthew Blenkarn

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