Whitford – Orson Welles: Planet Devouring Robot

Whitford
Orson Welles: Planet Devouring Robot

It’s getting more and more difficult to tell the difference between the various genres that are incorporated into the bands that are making instrumental music these days. Whitford’s music makes that even more difficult. While most definitely rooted in an indie rock tradition, this Pittsburgh band’s music definitely leans toward the jazz end of the spectrum. Perhaps the best description of the band’s music comes from the band themselves: darkjazzmathpunks. Well, not a whole lot of punk (except in attitude, perhaps), but dark-jazz-math-rock definitely works.
All of the songs on this oddly named release are laid back and restrained, something the band has done intentionally. This music is very well crafted, flowing and calm and yet intriguing. The overall effect does tend to make these songs into background music, regardless of what you’re doing, but it’s in the subtleties and quiet complexities that this band really shines. They require a more focused listen, which might be hard to do with the pleasant and calming effects of this music.
“Until He Comes Home” starts off very quiet and subtle, with some low sax meandering through the mix. When it does pick up somewhat, it tends to have a nice melodic structure that reminds me a bit of Tristeza. The untitled second track really starts the more experimental side of this band, with odd, jazzy time signatures and warbling sax and guitar, this one reminds me more of the more experimental instrumentalists like The Grassy Knoll. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long, instead slipping into the silky and melodic “Strangers Have the Best Candy,” a song that builds to an eerie intensity. The complex drumming and time changes on “Marilyn Hanson” don’t really fit with the quiet music, but there are moments of true math-rock intensity, with fast guitars and drums on this track, and it works quite well at these points. “[T]andem” shows off the band’s more melodic side, with some fantastic guitarwork. “The YK22 Problem” is another example of nice melodic guitar with moments of more intensity yet still a restrained, purposeful feel. “George_Mule_Suttles: Neverafinessplayer” starts off very slow and strangely repetitive, but as the sax comes in to a greater degree, the song builds and builds, never out of control but to a greater intensity and falling into moody quietness. And the closer, “Shine So Bright,” ends wonderfully, starting almost silent and building with melodic guitar, strong bass lines, fantastic rhythm, and hints of sax throughout. This song is beautiful.
Honestly, some of the band’s best work are the un-titled tracks, the under two minute pieces that fall between the actual works. On these short songs, we get some of the best integration of sax and guitar, along with light, jazzy drumming and a dreamy mood. Another interesting thing about this band is that they never succumb to the temptation of playing rambling, 13-minute tracks. All of these tracks are different and around the 6 minute or less mark.
I didn’t expect Whitford to be anything like what they are. With the odd artwork and album title, I was expecting something more electronic and experimental. I was pleasantly surprised to find Whitford’s songs so intricate and enjoyable. The use of sax and jazzy song structures makes these songs immensely pleasurable. The band’s only fault may be that, in keeping a restrained and quiet feel throughout, most listeners may find themselves at the album’s end before noticing its start.