Language is a strange gift: It can convey vast amounts of information with only a few words, but it can also quickly confuse and put distance between people. Chances are good you’ve been in a conversation where someone says something that makes absolutely no sense. Chances are equally good that the speaker knew exactly what he was trying to say, even if what came out was complete nonsense. White Rabbits, Riz Maslen’s fourth release as Neotropic, is like being on the listening end of that sort of conversation for just over an hour. The specifics make sense, but the whole is a bit garbled, struggling to mean anything in particular.
After releasing previous efforts on Ninja Tune, Maslen, who also records as Small Fish with Spine, takes her dark mix of instrumentation and electronic manipulation to Mush. Her sound remains mostly intact, blending trip-hoppy beats and atmospheres with pianos and slow, groaning noises. There are moments when things click, as when the female voices of “Magpies” begin their chants over the slapping drums. But when those moments do happen, they’re often run into the ground with tedious repetition. Even worse are tunes like “Odity-Round-A-Heights,” where nothing really happens at all — a few glitches, some sinister echoes and then silence. The gentle, shifting resonance of “Joe Luke” slides into at least three distinct sections, but there is a lot of dead space between them. And at thirteen minutes, the dead space will try your patience.
The hidden track at the end of the album, a blaring jam-session of distorted guitars that probably served as little more than a stress release for Maslen, is one of the record’s more interesting songs, thanks to the fact that it actually sounds like something different. A lot of White Rabbits sounds like it should be beautiful, but the pieces aren’t lined up properly. Most of the album is content to be little more than a personal exploration of sound and rhythm, and it ends up being pretty much just that — which is fine, unless you’re not Riz Maslen.