MAYBE IT TOOK the bucolic, expansive setting of Pendarvis Farm to harness the sprawling nature of the album that Kyle Morton and the 10 regularly assembled musicians of Typhoon were hoping to create. During a six-week period in the summer of 2012, the band set up camp in and around the woods of the Happy Valley farm—best known as home to Pickathon—where they wrote and arranged the songs that would make up the band's new LP, White Lighter. They fleshed out the songs in chronological order, mostly the order they appear on the album, recording in one of the property's two barns.
"We did a lot of writing in the barn, but I did a lot of writing and the lyrical content just moseying around the woods," Morton says. "I can hear the farm on the record, I can hear the barn where we recorded, and I can hear lines and remember where I was when I wrote that line. It certainly influenced the way I wrote it."
As a follow-up to 2010's Hunger and Thirst, which marked Typhoon's return after a hiatus that followed the band's formative teenage years, White Lighter arrives with more foreboding than its predecessor. Its progressive arrangements bend under Morton's lyrical cues, and the band's sonic arsenal boasts caterwauling vocals and an armada of instruments. Considering the autobiographical nature of the album to Morton, that support system was paramount to the creation of White Lighter.
"If it wasn't for the rest of the band, I would have no desire to do this publicly, or to finish something into a complete record," says Morton. "It would have never come out as such a finished piece. It would have just been me writing as I went and doing it for myself. Having people there and expecting to have songs out of it, it [really compelled me] to want to finish something."
White Lighter spends its first half dipping in and out of surreal, complicated arrangements, swelling and deflating like a pair of anxious, overworked lungs. The single "Young Fathers" even dabbles in electronic realms, marking uncharted territory for the group. It's not until "Hunger and Thirst"—taking its title, Houses of the Holy style, from the previous album—arrives in the second half that, at least for a moment, Morton allows the clouds to clear for a triumphant chorus of trumpets, his gloomy refrain of "I could have been a pop singer" receding as footnotes beneath the catharsis. The silver lining continues, the same horn parts guiding "Common Sentiments," still sounding reverential against Morton's preoccupation with mortality.
That theme, of course, isn't simply fodder for Typhoon to attempt some sense of profundity. Morton's battle with Lyme disease remains an enormous story arc on White Lighter, with copious references to the unseen bug that bit his leg, his struggles with being sick for much of his childhood, as well as lamentations over his physical stature. It's real, and it hurts, and you can feel it as you listen to Morton transcending the fatalistic and entering a cautious, ambivalent, and hard-won acceptance.
For Morton and the rest of Typhoon, these revelatory moments did not arrive unnoticed.
"When we were recording the first week on 'Artificial Light,' something clicked," Morton says of the track that opens White Lighter. "We were all just sort of looking at each other as we were listening back to it, and I felt this huge optimism. It was like we'd actually arrived at something. We'd gone, for us, to the next place we're supposed to be going."