We’ve all heard those legendary stories of albums that almost didn’t happen.
Jimi Hendrix nearly sabotaged Axis: Bold As Love by forgetting the master tapes in the back of a taxi.
Green Day’s American Idiot only happened because Cigarettes and Valentines was stolen from the studio.
Built to Spill’s phenomenal Perfect From Now On was ruined in the heat of Phil Ek’s car.
And then there are instances like White Powder, where singles were shelved for eight years. That’s not a typo.
The Austin, Texas-based band first released a small handful of singles back in January of 2013, and they recorded an album to accompany those tracks in 2014.
But then it just sat there. For years.
Finally, the album received a proper mix in 2020, and the band released the final product, Blue Dream, on May 7, 2021.
The wait was worth it, I’m happy to report. Blue Dream is a phenomenal album.
About White Powder
White Powder is technically a side project for a handful of visual and musical artists. White Powder is made of:
- Win Wallace – Bass, Primary Songwriter
- Ezra Reynolds – Keys, Synths
- Jeff Swanson – Drums
- Jason Morales – Guitar
Now that the album’s out and the band is pleased with the result, more emphasis has been placed on continuing White Powder. That’s big news because members of the band also contribute to Tia Carrera (Jason Morales), Black Mercy (Jason Morales), Suckling (Win Wallace and Ezra Reynolds), and Brothers Collateral (Win Wallace).
Blue Dream was recorded and mixed by Chico Richardson and mastered by Jerry Tub at Terra Nova Mastering. It was distributed by Australian Cattle God. Win Wallace, who also has a successful fine arts career, designed the album cover.
Blue Dream Review
Track One: Wolves
“Wolves” starts the album with synth and reverb, draping the listener in mysterious, haunting tones that will become common themes throughout White Powder’s Blue Dream. This opener also features a handful of meandering guitars, and the entire song takes a few minutes for the band to fully join forces. Eventually, around the 4:30 mark, “Wolves” turns heavy, almost metallic.
It’s hard to fall into a rhythm with the band in “Wolves,” but this song is more about exploration over predictability. To that end, “Wolves” is a fitting opener because Blue Dream is packed with surprises.
Track Two: Connemara
Connemara – The name of Carl Sandburg’s house in North Carolina.
“Connemara” is more in the vein of your traditional Psych Rock: Let’s establish the drums, bass, and keys, then we’ll have the guitar soar over the top like a Blue Angel. For much of the ride, “Connemara” is beautiful and charming, gently rising higher and higher as the song progresses—until its eventual explosion.
Track Three: Aokigahara
Aokigahara – A forest near Mount Fuji called the Sea of Trees. Formed from lava after Mount Fuji erupted in 864 CE.
“Aokigahara” is notable by this point for featuring the heaviest start to any song on the album those far, riding along on Wallace’s thumping bass line. When the keys and lead guitar finally join, “Aokigahara” adopts that wonderful Heavy Psych flavor White Powder excels at. This is a quick song that barely runs over two minutes, but it’s a furious delight that will leave you breathless.
Track Four: El Velador
El Velador – Spanish for “the watchman,” also the title of a movie that was released in January of 2013.
“El Velador” is a solid jam. Opening on a wave of Pink Floyd-inspired synth and guitar, “El Velador” rolls into its own Psychedelic tapestry, eventually building to a stunning conclusion—much of which is thanks to Jeff Swanson on drums.
Track Five: Alice Walker
Alice Walker – Award-winning American novelist, short story writer, and activist known for writing The Color Purple.
Hard-hitting and exciting, “Alice Walker” takes an incredible multi-guitar approach that weaves solos in between sharp, punctuated chords. Eventually, the band finds its groove for guitarist Jason Morales to launch a massive guitar solo packed with surprises.
In the second half of the song, you’ll find another nod to Pink Floyd with barely-audible whispers slipped into the rest of the track.
Track Six: Costa Bravo
One of the most exciting songs on the entire album, “Costa Bravo” relies on Ezra Reynolds’ surprising finesse on the keys and Win Wallace’s massive bass to drive the song forward, eventually leading to another incredible solo from Morales. Thanks to its electrifying keys, “Costa Bravo” occasionally calls to mind Black Mountain’s “Evil Ways,” from 2008’s In the Future.
Track Seven: Rula Jebreal
Rula Jabreal – A Palestinian foreign policy analyst and journalist who dated Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters for about three years.
Listen closely to “Rula Jebreal” to hear a few audio clips inserted into the song itself. This is another heavy track compared to the rest of Blue Dream, but not in the way you may expect—especially since there’s a connection back to Roger Waters (and Pink Floyd) through Rula Jebreal. Instead, there’s occasional flavors of Clutch and “Tripping the Alarm,” though these moments are fleeting. Ultimately, “Rula Jebreal” is a song of exploration, and it’s therefore filled with its own highs and lows.
Track Eight: Dirty Work
I could spend days writing about “Dirty Work” and its placement on Blue Dream. On the vinyl version, “Dirty Work” is the end of the record. But that’s not the case in the digital version.
There are a few reasons why “Dirty Work” stands out on an album like this—regardless of its placement on the record:
- It’s the only one with vocals.
- It’s the only song to have an obvious, familiar song structure.
- It has a surprise saxophone solo!
While it’s a beautiful song, it pulls the listener out of the Blue Dream soundscape in the digital album version for three and a half minutes, delivering an abrupt transition that’s difficult to justify at face value.
With that in mind, “Dirty Work” works best as the album closer on all formats (though I would personally argue for cutting it from the album completely). As it currently sits, “Dirty Work” is a form of meta dirty work since it disrupts the listening experience on the digital version.
Track Nine: Antietam
“Antietam” was initially released in January of 2013 under the name “Antietom” (with an “O” at the end). In that original version, you can hear the lack of synth that gives the Blue Dream version so much character.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
The Original Version
The Blue Dream Version
After “Dirty Work” this is a return to the familiar on Blue Dream, but even at its emotional peaks, it struggles to pull off the same effect as the rest of the album. At its core, then, “Antietam” is a wind-down.
Another important note: “Antietam” is only available on the digital album. It does not appear on vinyl.
Standout Tracks: “Alice Walker,” “Connemara,” “Aokigahara,” and “Costa Bravo”
Pros: There’s a certain level of confidence within Blue Dream that’s hard to ignore. This is well-written Psychedelic Rock from individually talented musicians. As a songwriter, Win Wallace explores multiple directions at once, developing a sound that’s compelling with every note.
That’s a difficult stunt to pull off in a genre that can occasionally fall to self-indulgence, but White Powder keeps it fresh without ever becoming stale mid-song or mid-album.
This is a diverse Psychedelic record with numerous references (Alice Walker and Aokigahra?) to keep listeners on their toes. To that end, Blue Dream is absolutely fun and exciting.
Cons: Unfortunately, White Powder fails to exploit any single influence to the point of identifying the band’s own unique sonic fingerprint. What eventually comes across, then, is a hodgepodge of Space-infused Psychedelic Prog Rock, with occasional call-backs to bands like Pink Floyd and Black Mountain.
That alone isn’t damning by any means, but this is a band that feels polished enough and talented enough to write something completely their own. Example: The band could have easily doubled or tripled the length of “Connemara” (and this is the perfect genre for that sort of exploration), but they concluded around six minutes. Blue Dream is a strong album, no doubt, but it seems White Powder has an untapped potential that we may have to wait to uncover until the next album.
Finally, after listening to the album half a dozen times, I still struggle to justify the inclusion of “Dirty Work.” Blue Dream would be stronger without this track interrupting the listening experience (as fun as the song may be).
Where to Learn More About White Powder
If you’d like to learn more about White Powder, check out their Bandcamp page.