There was no sunrise here this morning. Thick black clouds covered the sky and a miserable rain fell, steadily soaking the dark streets and the gloom-shrouded gardens of our village. The mood at Crotchety Mansions was sombre.
The cloud-penetrating radar screen was similarly dark other than for a few small bright specks. Yearning for light, Crotchety Man’s eyes were drawn to a song called Rising Sun by White Moth Black Butterfly. On investigation, this turned out to be a newly-released acoustic version of a track from the band’s second album, Atone. Here’s the original:
White Moth Black Butterfly started as a solo project by Daniel Tompkins, a singer from the UK best known as a former member of the progressive metal band TesseracT. His solo work, though, has dispensed with the ‘metal’; drawing on a wide variety of influences he creates some scintillating “progressive pop”.
Tompkins brought in Indian guitarist and producer, Keshav Dhar, and British singer, Jordan Bethany, for his self-released debut album, One Thousand Wings, which was issued in 2013. Both Dhar and Bethany became permanent members of White Moth Black Butterfly and the trio released Rising Sun as a single in 2014. Adding the U.S. string arranger and producer, Randy Slaugh, and drummer, Mac Christensen, WMBB recorded the album, Atone, which was released on KScope in 2017.
The latest offering from the band is an EP, also called Rising Sun, and released just over a week ago. The EP contains three versions of Rising Sun: the original album version, a remix and an acoustic performance featuring the percussive guitarist, Pat Cunningham. Also on the EP are two further tracks from Atone, one with Pat Cunningham and the other featuring another percussive guitarist, Jon Gomm. All five tracks are well worth a listen.
One review of Atone described it as “a fascinating, multi-dimensional piece of pop music, a layered, textured document of unbridled musicality”. Crotchety Man wouldn’t disagree with that but he would like to emphasise that WMBB’s work has a depth that most pop music has never matched. If songs like these were on the radio and in the charts today it would be a lot harder for serious musicians to dismiss modern music as shallow and unsatisfying.
On a vaguely related topic, Crotchety Man doesn’t like moths. His aversion goes back to the late eighties (I think) when he was invited to a friend’s wedding reception at a country club out in the sparsely populated Northumberland countryside. It was a mild, but cloudy autumn evening, much like today. Apart from the hotel and function room buildings there was nothing to light the grounds. If there was a moon it was hidden and there were neither nearby houses nor street lights to alleviate the blackness of the night.
It was the best part of an hour’s drive back home so, after a couple of soft drinks and a little idle conversation, I gave my congratulations to the bride and groom and politely took my leave. There was a long, winding and very dark path from the function room to the car park. But for a few lanterns spreading a pure white light onto the paving stones it would have been impossible to stay on the path.
The lights had attracted quite a few whitish moths, which fluttered around my head as I made my way to the car. One of the moths flew into the side of my face and I wafted it away with a hand. Turning round I was surprised to see that the insect had completely disappeared. It had to be somewhere close by – it had brushed my face only half a second before – but there was no sign of it. “Oh, well”, I thought, “it’s gone now”.
As I continued down the path there was a soft unidentifiable sound somewhere close to my right ear. Another moth? Looking round I could see nothing. Thinking I must have imagined it I carried on until I reached the car park. Turning the key in the ignition that strange sound came again, even closer this time. Was there a moth in the car with me? Or was I quietly going mad? Either way I could hardly go back to the reception and report this eerie phenomenon to a roomful of people, mostly strangers, who were making the most of a joyous occasion.
Slipping the car into gear I started down the drive. There was that noise again. A kind of fluttering, and so close it must have been inside my ear. Fighting to control my panic I drove out of the car park exit and straight back in through the entrance. I was never in the scouts but I don’t think they tell you how to remove a moth from your ear in that venerable institution and I certainly had no idea what the correct procedure might be.
“They’ll think I’m barmy”, I thought as I approached the first familiar person in the bar area. He did give me a very peculiar look but the terrified expression on my face must have convinced him that I just might be telling the truth when I blurted out, “I’ve got a moth in my ear!”. He peered into the offending orifice, had me turn towards the light and then declared, “So you have!”. A huge sense of relief descended on me then. At least I wouldn’t be carted off to the funny farm by the men in white coats.
That still left us with the problem of extracting the damn thing from my ear. This was before the days of smart phones and instant access to the Internet so we couldn’t just ask Google. (I see, however, that there is now a video on YouTube that shows you exactly what to do.) My mate suggested getting a drinking straw from the bar and sucking it out. The barman thought we were pulling his leg and it wasn’t funny. Besides, he didn’t have any straws.
We were pondering whether we could flush it out by pouring water into my ear when the creature took matters into its own hands (or should that be its proboscis?), crawled out and flew off into the hall to join the dancers jiving to the disco music. Nervously, I drove home and tried not to think about flying insects.
To this day, dark skies and white moths remind me of that traumatic experience. Now, though, White Moth Black Butterfly have added the bright rising sun to counteract the irrational fear of a harmless bug. And for that, I heartily thank them.