Editors’ Notes Blanco White’s sound may be steeped in ancient traditions—primarily, the interwoven textures of flamenco guitar and Andean folk—but it is, in many ways, a musical project shaped by modern realities. “For me, the music I’ve ended up being drawn to is a product of the way we listen to music now,” British singer-songwriter Josh Edwards, the man behind the Latin-influenced recording guise, tells Apple Music. “We have access to these huge [online] libraries now, music from every corner of the world and every time. And for me, discovering the swing and excitement of something like flamenco is just what hooked me and expanded what I thought was possible. It’s this rabbit hole that I’m still only entering.”

On his debut record, Edwards invites you to join him in the warm, globally inspired cocoon of his chosen rabbit hole. Scaffolded by his classic training (he learned Spanish guitar in Andalucia and mastered charango and ronroco, the lute-like Andean instruments, while in Bolivia), On the Other Side unfurls at its own hazy, bewitching pace. There are rippling washes of guitar and strutting flamenco cross-rhythms; plinking moments of sub-Saharan funk (especially on the desert rock groove of “Samara”), and beds of ghostly synth—all working to evoke the landscape of the rural southern Spanish town where Edwards spent three months writing the album. “I could see Africa from the house, out across the Straits of Gibraltar,” he says. “It was a magical, mystical place.” The heart of On the Other Side comes from the charango and ronroco (a bass guitar version of the charango), as well as the idea that indigenous Latin American instruments may have something new to tell us about the world, and the interconnectedness of cultures. “They’re instruments I have a very deep love for, with a very unique sound that’s often instinctively mournful,” he says. “And I think you can feel the weight of history and real meaning behind them.” Here, he unpacks that meaning, and his first record, track by track.

On the Other Side
“I remember listening to a voice memo of some guitar I'd been playing, just before a gig on the tour before [in late 2019]. 'On the Other Side' was actually based on that, where I just did some flamenco clapping over a guitar part. It’s one of the biggest nods towards flamenco on the album, especially the middle eight. But more than that, this was the song that really gave me an idea of what the wider sound of the album would be. There was something about the colors of its sound—it still had the charango and ronroco on it, but there was a bit more rhythm there. I’ve always felt that it was the kind of gateway track of this collection of songs, which is why I wanted to open with it and name the entire album after it.”

I Belong to You
“I went to southern Spain with another writer, which was really cool. We had our own spaces but we could hang out, compare what we’d been up to, and go out and about. The lyrics to this song are about that time; sharing it with that other writer and just the joy of that creative space. So it’s a love song in a way. Although, for me, I find it quite hard to be very direct lyrically. This chorus is probably as direct as I get, but I always feel I have to counterbalance that with more cryptic, abstract, or figurative verses. And the instrumental sections of ‘I Belong to You’ are probably just as important as the more lyrical sections.”

All That Matters
“This song was one of the earliest ones [I wrote for the album], and it’s all about the charango and ronroco—these inspiring, amazing creations that I’m always surprised aren’t more widely used outside of Latin America. Here, because of the charango’s very open tune, it can feel very pentatonic and some of its harmonies can have an almost Celtic or Irish folk feel. I mean, I have a special connection with Ireland after we finished our tour there in 2019. But really [the similarity] is just an accident. Rhythmically, ‘All That Matters’ is more Andean. It’s based on a bailecito rhythm, which is one of the things I started familiarizing myself with when I was initially learning the charango. This is me building on that—trying to stay true to its spirit while playing around with electric guitars, synths, and counter-rhythms.”

Samara
“This one came from watching friends in bands that were rocking out a bit more and playing music with a bit more groove. People on the London scene like Malena Zavala, who has a lot of Latin rhythms in her live sound. And my friends Wovoka Gentle, who put a lot of fun in their shows and can get quite psychedelic. Also, I’ve got an amazing band that I'm really lucky to play with, and a lot of those musicians really left their mark on this song. Cam Potts, especially, who's also in a band called Superego and plays lead guitar on the recording. His guitar sound definitely has this link with a more funky way of playing and a lot of the Somali music I was listening to when I was writing the song initially. The compilation that was really blowing my mind was a record called Sweet as Broken Dates, which is these lost Somali tapes from the ’70s and ’80s, which are mostly funk. What the songs were communicating, the musicianship and the writing, it was unlike anything I'd ever heard. And it's definitely a thread I want to continue following.”

Desert Days
“There's this amazing short story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges about this argument between two kings. One king sends one into a labyrinth; he gets out and sends the other one to the desert, which ends up being the ultimate labyrinth that you can't escape from before you die. This song was meant to be a play on that story, where I was trying to make this open, desolate space feel suffocating. It’s kind of meant to describe the feeling of being trapped living in one city for too long. Musically, this is pretty much directly inspired by bands like Tinariwen and West African music that can sometimes have a similar swing to Andean music. It’s meant to feel quite bluesy, really, and I wanted there to be a desert feel to it.”

So Certain
“When I went to southern Spain, I’d driven down from the UK with a fairly mobile setup, so I was able to make really fleshed-out demos that were quite close to the final recordings we ended up making at Hoxa HQ studios [in London]. So, in some ways, I kind of felt like I recorded the album twice. Sometimes I felt like maybe there was a performance I gave in Spain during the writing that I was perhaps not able to find again in the studio. That could have just been my own head telling me that, but ‘So Certain’ is one example where we didn’t find it so hard and we definitely found some magic in the studio. It came together very quickly, with just me and my engineer Dani Bennett Spragg, who was like my right-hand girl, working on it through the whole process. The [traditional Andean] quena flute is probably the central part of the song. It’s meant to feel quite ghostly, like that sensation of visiting a new place and feeling you’ve been there before. Lyrically I'm often trying to explore territory that feels a little dreamlike, surreal, or concerned with memory.”

Kauai O'o
“I’ve got this really interesting, amazing friend called Matthew Shribman who’s a sort of science educator. He put me onto the story of this extinct Hawaiian bird called the Kauai O‘o, and an audio recording [from 1987] that they think is the mating call of the last male. It’s really haunting, obviously, but I remember thinking that the actual call was really musical and beautiful. It had gone to the back of my mind until six months later. I started on the bass guitar, which really changed the focus of the song; it was more about rhythm and the flow of it. There’s a real jazz shuffle on the drums too, which is not something I was expecting to do. It just sort of happened. And I think the combination of the shuffle rhythm and bassline made me feel, sonically, like there was a link to the story my friend had told me. Even though it’s probably a bit of an outlier in terms of sound, it all felt really natural.”

Papillon
“There’s a book called Papillon by a French writer called Henri Charrière that was a favorite of a friend of mine who passed away. It’s a really exciting page-turner, set mostly in prison camps in the Caribbean, and throughout reading it I kept thinking about my friend. When it was really fresh, I wanted to write a song that captured what I was experiencing reading that book; that feeling of recognizing I was in the same shoes as the person I had known that had loved this story. It’s really about the ronroco as an instrument. And the heart of it is about letting it shine with these phases and synths that give it a rippling, watery feel. It’s maybe the song on the album that means the most to me.”

Olalla
“I really love the name Olalla [pronounced ‘Ol-eye-yah’], I think it's a beautiful word, but this song is actually named after a place rather than a person. It's something I think is really interesting in songs; something that Zach Condon from Beirut does a lot, and he's definitely a big inspiration. It's a song really about traveling and stumbling across places. In Southern Europe, a lot of the smaller towns and villages are almost disappearing, and some of them are falling into ruin because everyone's moving to cities and there's no kind of local economy for people to survive with. A lot of these places are incredibly beautiful. I wanted the song to feel like a happy sort of lament for that. This is the only song on the album that we had released already [on 2018's Nocturne EP], but it just felt like this had an important connection to the more rhythmic side of [my] music. I think listening back to the album I was like, ‘Gosh, this is quite a sad record.’ I wasn't expecting it to feel so sad. So 'Olalla' is meant to be a moment where there's a bit more fresh air.”

Chasing Dials
“The guitar tone on this—quite similar to the one on ‘Olalla’—is definitely influenced by African music; a nod to the styles you find in places like Mali. It's a song about feeling like you're getting a bit older and life is getting away from you. Again, it was linked to some of the feelings I was trying to express with 'Desert Days.' My favorite thing about this job, especially with the touring, is you have all of these chapters and you're moving around so much with so many markers of where you've been. It has this effect, I think, of really slowing time down. Whereas if you're in one place for a year and you don't leave, it's like, ‘Whoa, where the fuck did that year go?’ This is me trying to explore that.”

Mano a Mano
"The song was, again, more inspired by Tinariwen and the African music I was listening to. I was trying to play with English words to make it fit and I just couldn't find anything. English just didn't seem capable of communicating that melody. So I started trying to use Spanish words instead, and it was instantly way, way better. So I just thought, I've got to try [to write a whole song in Spanish]. It was written in Spain, and we actually popped to a little music studio right out on the coastline, in a place called Punta Paloma. We did a rough recording and I just said to the guy there, ‘Look, dude, be honest with me, does the Spanish sound crap?’ He was like, ‘It's all right. You've got to do a bit of work, but you'll get it.' That was enough for me to be like, ‘Right, I'm going to finish this song and give it a go.’ I got some friends to help me, check my pronunciation and that kind of thing, but it was a good challenge. I was writing in the dark for a lot of it, but that was quite liberating as well. It came together really quickly as well, maybe because I was less precious about the lyrics.”

SONG
On the Other Side
1
4:55
 
I Belong to You
2
3:55
 
All That Matters
3
4:12
 
Samara
4
4:12
 
Desert Days
5
3:31
 
So Certain
6
3:14
 
Kauai O'o
7
5:53
 
Papillon
8
3:59
 
Olalla
9
4:08
 
Chasing Dials
10
4:03
 
Mano a Mano
11
6:20
 

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