White Hills - "H-p1"
(Thrill Jockey 2011, 2-LP)
From Aural Innovations #43 (October 2011)
This is the second White Hills album for Thrill Jockey records. Far out, I wouldn't have expected that label to go for a pure space/stoner-rock band like White Hills. The Condition Of Nothing kicks things off and it's a heavy guitar grinder with a low but menacing vocal. I'm hearing many dissonant guitar and synth sounds... and now some crisp mellotron. This is a pre-release download version that I'm listening to and I'm betting that the abrupt cut-off at the end of this track will be smoothed out for the official release. Movement is a shorter experimental piece that features reverberating clanging guitar lines and percussive tones. On the fade-out you notice the wobbly keyboard sequence that was there all along, as those klings and klangs drop away. No Way Out is a long slow doom-jam. There's a heavy Sabbath style to the bass and as for the rhythm guitar - at the risk of sounding redundant, I'll say again that yet another guitarist has caught on to that "chainsaw" sound pioneered by Helios Creed. Paradise - now this one's really rockin' me! A mind-blowing instrumental onslaught of shredding synth streaks over a super-grooving propulsive motorik blanga-beat... yeah, the buzzing of the synth here is FUCKING INTENSE. This is a must for fans of F/i. I was about to say that it seems about time to wrap this one up while there's still five minutes left to go, but then there's this nifty organ/keyboard line. You just gotta hear it! Upon Arrival is a fairly standard space/doom-rock'n'roller, nothing great, but super heavy of course. A Need To Know is an ambient-space piece for floaty keyboards which was supposed to segue into Hand In Hand, but again this on-line version split the tracks with a silence gap. But anyway, this is a really good piece as well, a way-heavy doomy groaning guitar treatment of some sort... or maybe even bass guitar... various layers of tripped out tronics... a synthesizer run on a stereo-panning loop. Monument: This one's a beaut, gurgling synth over wailing guitar lines and rumbling tom-tom rolls. These guys have to have everything so full-on heavy/high that even the synthesizer is FUZZED OUT. A righteous jam. And now for the grand finale: the 17-minute title-track... can they pull it off, can they justify the length? It's a hell of a good start, and definitely in the epic Hawkwind riff mode. By the way, in case you weren't aware, Dave W. is the main man on guitar, synth and vocal, and the vocal is back for this final track. It's there, nothing fantastic, but I don't think it's supposed to be prominent, these folks are essentially an instrumental band with the occasional verse, chorus or chant... good, things are quieting down now... this should be a good build-up of tension, like those monster epics that the under-publicized (and sometimes criminally unreleased) Farflung churned out in the '90s, but with bluesy lead-guitar now... well, the limbo that this track gets stuck in is a little stale to my ears... more of that heavily-plundered stoner-rock style that's become mediocre due to overpopulation. But the track ends with some cool deep-space synth action.
So... this album has its highs and lows. Remove the blah, and you'd have a hell of a record. Yeah, sometimes the old vinyl LP medium would be helpful. But I'm excited to hear the rest of their back catalogue. And it's good to know that a band like this is enjoying a higher profile.
For more information you can visit the White Hills web site at: http://whitehillsmusic.tumblr.com
Visit the Thrill Jockey web site at: http://www.thrilljockey.com
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg