Gravity Hill - "Strange Bolero"
(Treecastle Music 2001, TR14001)
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
Gravity Hill performs a type of electronic space music that goes beyond what you would normally expect from a band of this type. Entirely improvised in real time, the band captures the spirit of the days of old, like early Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream, by incorporating instruments other than just electronic ones into the mix, though they never sacrifice the essential spaciness of their sound. Unlike their predecessors however, Gravity Hill definitely tends towards the mellower, low-key side of things, never quite reaching the mind bending, drugged out extremes of those bands. Not that they are trying to either. The influence is definitely there, but Gravity Hill are attempting to carve out their own niche in time and space.
The five piece unit consists of Kelly Sheets on synthesizers, Keith Yount and Joe O'Connell on percussion (we're talking lots of interesting ethnic types of percussion here, rather than just ordinary drums), Chris Holt on guitar and guitar synth, and Bunny Sheets on keyboards. Together, they have a knack for creating sonic textures that are vaguely reminiscent, like some half-forgotten song you heard a long time ago. I found this particularly evident on the lengthy Dreamshift, a haunting piece that shifts and twists through a number of strange and beautiful aural spacescapes. Other tracks take you on different journeys, like Sunny Days and Rainsticks, which has a lovely, summery psychedelic vibe to it, thanks in a large part to Chris Holt's trippy guitar work (which I might add, is reminiscent of Manual Gottsching's). Vertigo is another standout, the edgiest track on the album, it starts off with wicked, nightmarish electronic slides, before breaking into a low-key but dark and effective jam.
All the tracks on Strange Bolero (with great titles like Gong With the Wind and Saturn Always Leaves Summer Alone) segue easily into one another, making the album one long, blissful trip worth taking over and over again.
For more information you can visit the Gravity Hill web site at: http://www.gravityhill.net.
Contact via snail mail c/o Gravity Hill, P.O. Box 2551 Indianapolis, IN 46206.
Strange Bolero is distributed by Treecastle Music. You can visit their web site at: http://www.treecastlemusic.com.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald