Taking a break from his various other bands and collaborations (including The Electric Soft Parade, Brakes, British Sea Power and Patrick Wolf) Thomas White released his third solo album ‘Yalla!’ in March 2012 via Bleeding Heart Recordings.
How often do we really ever 'get away from it all'? And when we do, how much of that time is spent evoking our home, pining for what we've left behind?
In September 2010, Thomas White left these shores for an extended break, spending six weeks in the blazing dry heat of Dahab, Egypt. Quite what brought on a trip of this scope remains a mystery, but a friend had offered a bed and lodgings, and the proposition of a month and a half of pure, unblinking sunshine proved too much to decline. On arrival, however, this wide-eyed wonder quickly turned to abject homesickness. What to do with six weeks in a town with a population of 5,000? Anticipating some 'free time' along the way, Thomas had wisely packed with him a travel guitar, a laptop computer, and by means of a microphone, an old Sony Handicam.
Perhaps the Gods were looking down, perhaps the stars were aligned, but several days into the trip the songs started coming, thick and fast. A pattern emerged - wake and bake, record the previous night's ideas, head for the sea, snorkel, find a suitable bar, note down any thoughts, drink through the evening, collapse, wake up, commit the previous night's ramblings to tape, take a dip, repeat. Within days another theme was also revealing itself - not some rose-tinted travelogue, but rather a deep yearning for home - any and all memories were called upon to evoke the land left behind. In perhaps a week and a half, the album you hear now was written, recorded and mixed.
Obliquely touching on the untimely death of Thomas and his brother (and The Electric Soft Parade band member) Alex's mother in 2009, explicitly referencing Brighton people and places, and dealing unflinchingly with issues of sexuality and identity, "YALLA!" (meaning, "Let's get going," in Arabic) is perhaps Thomas's most unrelentingly personal solo effort to date, utilising just vocal, guitar and the sparest of production, yet somehow saying so much more. One might site Mark Hollis and Billy Mackenzie as similar artists who have shunned a deep, varied palate in favour of arrangements that lay bare both singer and song. If 2008's ‘I Dream Of Black’ was the bedroom-producer-gone-maximalist, and 2010's ‘The Maximalist’ was the dark dream in frightening technicolour, then ‘YALLA!’ is the sound of a man turning his back on ten years' experience and truly forging ahead. Gone is the need to shroud all meaning and nuance in multi-tracking and studio trickery - with ‘YALLA!’, Thomas White has finally caught up with himself.