EP Review: The White Russian – You Are

The White Russian are a London-based acoustic folk ensemble who I first discovered for the blog at the end of last year through their atmospheric track Cancer Knee. I was so taken with their sound that when I saw the EP from which the track was taken was released, I knew I had to give it a listen. It’s called You Are.

By Graeme Smith

Feature Photo by Joseph Giffard Tutt

The story of the EP is very much a personal one to The White Russian’s frontman and song writer Joseph Giffard Tutt. It was born out of a medical condition he suffers that involves chronic fatigue and an altered state of consciousness. As a result, the sound is a little out there. It tears up the rule book of folk, with repetitive and surreal lyrics and instrumentals arrangement that invoke the feeling of otherworldliness.

The EP starts with B Child, a reflection on Joseph’s upbringing that starts with a plodding guitar arrangement before suddenly becoming light and airy. It builds to a triumphant, brass-filled mariachi-style crescendo.

Track two is the aforementioned Cancer Knee. It’s just as compelling as part of this collection, perhaps more so. The tempo lurches from cantering to slow and reflective. The lyrics are image-laden and cryptic.

Next up is the EP’s title track You Are. Recently played by Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 Music, it’s certainly one that deserves special attention. The guitar melody is intricate and absorbing, while bass notes flesh it out. The vocals are soaring as the instrumentals swell, and things feel at their most conventionally folk here, akin to Simon & Garfunkel.

It’s followed by Platipi. With its hard-guitar strumming and punchy tempo it feels like a counterpoint to You Are. The anger and frustration is palatable, and it overflows in explosions of brass. As with every track so far, it ends in a very different place to where it started, with a gentle, psychedelic groove.

Closing the EP is Rickety Road / Sat Me Down. A free-form double-header that runs for almost five minutes, it’s the EP’s most experimental track. One of Joseph’s influences is my favourite band Bright Eyes and it comes through strongly here in its feeling of melancholy and modern Americana sensibilities.

You Are is a collection of incomparable tracks that need to be heard first hand to be appreciated. It’s rare that I come across such a unique voice, even in my line of business. The White Russian is a name that I want to shout from the rooftops. You can check out the whole EP below.