...It's the most wonderful time of the year! (sung with equal parts gusto and Christmassy cheer)
Traditionally, and when I say traditionally I actually just mean the past four or five years, rather than say since I was four, this record and a handful of others will now stay on heavy rotation until the weather lifts and the bears come out of their caves. This basically means I will hear it at least twice weekly until the end of March.
I remember one snowy day in Amsterdam listening to this on repeat on my CD walkman, roaming the empty canal side streets for as long as it took to play this album all the way through four times. A lot of that day was spent stopping, staring, looking at the whiteness that had covered the city, the silent parts of the record replaced by my breathing. In a similar way to certain narcotic based experiences a strange wave over took me for the duration - Nothing really mattered and everything was alright... Not great, just alright. I felt utterly helpless and insignificant and as the snow fell around me I couldn't help thinking how utterly fucked yet beautiful everything was.
Anyway, enough of sounding high. The White Birch is so pretty and totally brutal at the same time, quiet and then very suddenly very loud in a perfect pattern, in just the right doses. This sleeve more than any I can recall paints a perfect picture of the music, instrumentally sparse but intense. Anyway, before I dissapear up my own ass and this turns into something from the pages of Pitckfork.com I will go back in time and remember where and when I first heard this wonderful album.
So, Delorian parked up, ticket under the wiper I arrive at my cousins shared flat in Brixton sometime in the summer of 1995. This would be shortly after we discovered SLINT together on the same day whilst record shopping in Birmingham - Which means that I have now had my first experience of crying at a record (I think Steve Albini said a similar thing about Spiderland but I always thought that that was because he was just upset that the production was better than the job he had done on their debut Tweeze) and to this day 'Good morning Captain' succeeds in affecting me in some way every time I listen to it. Anyway, he had his records stacked spine vertical against the wall in eight or so very neat and equally wide piles and I began to flick through, as I did, he put on the track 'Loss Leader' from The White Birch.
'What's this we're listening to?' I asked.
'It's The White Birch'.
And that was that. I sold my vinyl copy on an ill advised purge on leaving Holland, at the same time I jettisoned all of my early to mid 90's US Alt records - You know the ones that go for high double figures on Ebay. Then midway through last year tired of the guilt associated with owning it on CD I shelled out thirty quid for a copy and that's what's playing now.
Whilst this album didn't have the immediate effect of Slint's 'Spiderland' I realized immediately that the adventure that began with Kentucky's finest could finally be expanded upon, which is no mean feat.