When synthesizers became a good available for the average man in the the early 80s, it suddenly was so easy to make music without a band. It was the prime time of one-man-projects. Since the punk movement D.I.Y. was in trend. New wave brought us some interesting music, which only got its name 20 years later: Minimal wave. You just needed a synth, a drum machine and a nuance of creativity.
A very mysterious project from the mid-80s is called Dark White. Only one release we have got from them, The Grey Area, self-released in 1985 (Dark White Music) with not more than 500 copies. Also an intensive internet research didn’t reveal much about Dark White.
Actually, the only thing we have is the music and the back of the LP, where we can read that Dark White are from the US, namely from Schaumburg, Illinois and the album has been recorded at Remington Road Studios near Chicago. Several musicians are mentioned, most of all the name Razah Renfield, who was author of the lyrics and responsible for production and artwork. Maybe it was a one-man-project by Renfield, with help of his friends?
1985 The Grey Area (12″ Vinyl)
The songs on The Grey Area differ a lot from each other in style. All in all the album is quite dark. The main instruments are a synthesizer and a drum machine. The lyrics are not always easy to understand. From time to time there are lapses audible, which gives the music of Dark White much more of a minimalistic character. Dark White may have been influenced by noise-punk band Big Black and their 1982’s EP Lungs.
As there are only five songs which Dark White have left for a public audience, I will shortly review them.
The opening track ‘Call of the Wild (sub domestic mix)’ introduces the album with heavy drums, till the synth sets in, together with the bass-line. It is a very chaotic song, has elements from synth-punk and EBM. In any case, ‘Call of the Wild’ is very danceable.
‘Tendencies (Character Neurosis)’ is slower than its predecessor. It still has something EBM-ish, though. Very nice is the set of electronic effects and the bass-line.
‘Dramatics’ is the kick-ass song on The Grey Area. After a whistling intro this track comes very dynamically. The bass is just perfect, reminding of the early songs by Modern English (like “16 Days”” or “Black Houses”). ‘Dramatics’ could and should have been a hit.
My personal favourite is the next song ‘Article of Life’. A philosophical song, the most synthie one on this album. After about 100 listens I still didn’t get the whole lyrics. The song consists of three parts: In the first the singer explains in spoken words, what the ‘Article of Life’ is. The second is sung in a very high voice. The third part is instrumental until it fades out. The ‘Article of Life’ is reminiscent of the early oeuvre of New Order.
The last piece is a remix of ‘Call of the Wild’. There is nothing special about this song, as it is almost the same as the first track.
What happened to Dark White?
To search for Dark White on the internet doesn’t return many results, except download links for The Grey Area. The career of Dark White seems to have started and ended with this one album, which makes it a rare and obscure gem in the musical history of the 80s.
Razah Renfield seems to be a very rare name. Therefore, I tried to search for him instead of Dark White. Thus, I found out that Renfield released an album under his name in 1992, entitled Faunus Reign. This album still contains synthesizer-music, but has also heavy industrial guitars. On CDbaby this album is described as following: “A electonic venture into the untamed spirit. Very ambient. Heavy layers of synths, percussion creates a great escape from everyday life.” Faunus Reign is, indeed, worth a listen, though it is something completely different than Dark White, sounds more like a soundtrack.
And here the trace ends…