It can be hard to say what a release like “Escape the Mystery II” is really about. The “II” would seem to indicate this is something of a sequel—but a sequel to what? It could be that this is simply a sequel to whatever style it is that Chris Jaques was used to before this. I’ve read some descriptions, and indeed “Escape the Mystery II” seems to embody a new approach to what “Criz” (as he calls himself on the j-card insert) has historically been up to, here adding new instruments and techniques to his repertoire and even inviting his seven year old son in for some contributing vocals (hence, this one goes with the byline of “Family Band”). But this being my first real introduction to White Dog (although I have had some marvelous experiences with his label, Prairie Fire), all I have to go on are the weird noises on this tape, the descriptions of what’s been done in the world of White Dog in the past, that creepy doll on the cover, and the title.
So I’m not sure I can really call this an “escape” from anything. In fact, White Dog created something of a vicious trap, more of an alluring mystery that pulls you in, no easy task for a noise record. Noise records can end up being something you’re trying to get through, as a chore. But it’s all just so strange that “Escape” shouldn’t fail to keep listeners wanting more, a labor of intrigue, discovery and patience. The tape’s A-side is a piece of music moving from one texture to the next, softly overlapping themes that stand well-divided as chapters, parceled tidily out across its length. It almost plays out like a mix—From field recordings to gurgling murk-drones to eardrum piercingly high-pitched synth stabs. Then later a short snippet of a funky blip/bloop beat, overdriven guitar riffs that crash with a cataclysmic crunch and some patient hypnotic feedback swells, too. Lots of sounds/styles/samples well matched with each other and paced to keep the casual noise-absorber in hot anticipation of whatever might come next, which never fails to be something entirely weird, yet makes sense in an entirely weird way given what precedes.
Side B is a self-described “de-mix” of the a-side’s title track. I don’t know how to say that this is exactly a de-mix. The themes seem to stay consistent although instead of constructing a narrative as its flip side counterpart, here you can hear it sort of falling apart. Some of the same sections (especially the blip/bloopy beat part I already wrote about) reprise for this version in even weirder fashion that before. New sounds arrive or at least are reinvented anew. New samples (one fairly recognizable as Lee “Scratch” Perry) show up. And White Dog presents all of these things in a way that is gradually deteriorating, each tone or phrase born only to eventually be blasted into oblivion and end, rather than build on top of itself to keep things forward moving—this one truly does feel like it’s traveling backwards.
Whether this is supposed to be an escape for the listener, or something of an escape for the music’s creator remains unknown. And maybe that’s the ultimate mystery Jaques is trying to get out there. Either way, it’s an intriguing journey full of puzzling clues, a path of soft twists and turns, dark and swampy all the way. Overall White Dog plays up on emotions of uncertain anticipation, buys into the nervous tensions and subconscious fright we all expereience. He’ll remind you about ghosts you thought were there, and then he’ll show them to you. It’s a good thing to face fears sometimes, and with this tape, you’ll actually want to.