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ThouShaltNot's The White Beyond, Live at the Piano

This album is an acoustic piano-and-vocals interpretation of the 2003 album The White Beyond from October 19 2018. It is performed by the album's songwriter/lead vocalist, Alex Reed.

The album cover of The White Beyond, Live at the Piano

ThouShaltNot (1999-2012) was a band I listened to a lot during my years at university, and I continue to enjoy their music now. Their main albums have an electronic and synthpop sound. They are probably best known for their album The White Beyond, and their quirky Wizard of Oz inspired track If I Only Were a Goth.

Inside of You, In Spite of You was the first TSN song I heard, as a free download from a service in the early 2000s. it was the opening track of The White Beyond, and it was catchy enough that I sought out their other work.

First impressions: a slower start than on the original album, but the vocals are clear, and the overall feeling is that it's harsher than original. With only vocals and piano there is nowhere to hide. It's stripped back and raw. This continues beyond the first track. There is an honesty to the music; no artifice, but it also makes it a bit less pleasant to listen to, as it's jarring and not softened by the electronic elements. The lyrics are still fantastic, though. Cardinal Directions ends with what seems - to me - frantic, discordant piano strokes (please excuse my complete lack of technical music knowledge).

Come a Time is not tuneful, but stern and spoken, until it hits "Who am I...?" We Could Have Flown Like Pollen, The Ocean Is Your Voice, Glaciers, 100 Generations, G.L.M. and Trial By Fire seem to have a similar arrangement to the original album versions, but again, they have the rawness of being acoustic versions. There's more anger to them; more regret about what could have been in the storyline of each song.

Song For The Dying and The White Beyond have been favourites of mine ever since I first heard them, flowing from one song to the other. Again, they have a similar structure to the original album versions, but I think they benefit from the minimal presentation. They were always piercing in their message of loss and belief in reunion, and - in this reinterpretation - even more so. The bonus track Coronation is another evocative track, and feels uncannily apt since I visited the Tower of London very recently.

Overall: The original album had a sombre edge, but this interpretation brings a rawness to the lyrical offering that expresses anger and regret more clearly than before. It's a powerful interpretation of the album, but more challenging to listen to as a result. Members of ThouShaltNot, including Alex, formed another band called Seeming; I resolve to explore their music as soon as possible.