Hungrily prolific New York Psychedelickers White Hills’ seventh album brings together the obvious talents of three lovers of space exploration (both outer and inner worlds) via the medium of rock music and electronica and simultaneously represents a continued success for this undoubtedly special band and also a surprising let down, but more on that soon. The first track, ‘In Words’, is a mere 25 seconds of farting cosmic bleeps and distorted words uttered obscurely and then we are into the first SONG proper with ‘In Your Room’ which is a mighty nebulous juggernaut that pushes ever forward on a primal chord sequence/riff that takes you by the brain stem and yanks you around for fun. And at this point the single huge flaw of the album hits me, and presumably anyone else listening. The recording is just plain poor. So quiet, so low, so…muffled. I do not like one little bit. Who would? A mighty space band like this with a slew of great recordings behind them and to not record an album with a decent sound is just fucking stoopid and more than that, mysterious. I shall endeavour to press on without constant recourse to the disappointing sound quality, if I possibly can. Massive Dave W. trademark guitar solos ensue and much cataclysmic riffing for six minutes of solid White Hills aggro-psych ensure that this ace band have not lost their interstellar muse.
‘The Internal Monologue’ is a warm wash of synths that provides a few minutes solace from the muscular swagger of the previous belter, then The Hills launch into another crunching sub-Hawkwind stomper in the form of the title track. Again, a punishing track like this deserves a better mix by far than the ‘bumble-in-a-matchbox’ struggle that presents itself to my ears. The track lapses into soothing and percussion-less meanderings then fifth track ‘Outwords’ gives me more distorted mumblings and bleeps like the opener. The casual sufferer of attention deficit may well say ‘give me more space rock and stop fucking about with filler’. Part of me says that too.
‘Forever In Space (Enlightened)’ starts with the classic ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ descending chord sequence then blasts into the third big fucker of a rocker on this long player. You know the style here don’t you? Hypnotic intonations delivered in deadpan and dispassionate vocal style by Dave W. and his titanic and multi-tentacled guitar spewing out and spitting all over the shop, whether it’s sizzling molten riffs or brain-searing solos he cuts it in fine fashion. All this cavalier fun backed to the hilt with Ego Sensation’s orgasmically throbbing bass and Nick Name always battering the fuck out of his drums like he is mounted on the top of a very fast ultra-train circumnavigating the bleached red skin of Mars. ‘Rare Upon the Earth’ continues this blue-print with crazily bending notes and both Dave and Ego delivering dreamy android vox that say go to sleep and lose yourself in the folds of your hidden unconscious.
The penultimate track ‘Circulating’ is brief electronic fuckery and ‘MIST (Winter)’ closes the album with glowing krautrock benevolence: a mellow monster of tenacious drums and whooshing purity that rises at points on a Loop-like riff of simple gnashing teeth of metal and then drops back into a sonic sea of post-ecstasy swells. All lovely beatific stuff that recalls the greatest moments of primitive inner-space pioneers like seventies Hawkwind (above all, the first five albums from this band inform what these New Yorkers do), Amon Duul II, Chrome, Mudhoney, the afore-mentioned Loop and The Stooges at their blistering live free-form best. So why a recording that is neither LOUD nor clear enough? I cannot think that it escaped their attention. In particular White Hills’ cosmic-stomp benefits from a big full-bodied mix, a mix incidentally that one finds on their previous albums. This offering was recorded with Martin Bisi at BC Studios in Brooklyn – same man and place as last year’s well-recorded ‘Frying on this Rock’. Puzzled I am. Maybe my promo download is of inferior quality. I doubt it though. Anyway – I look forward to seeing these three take these new songs and give them a damn good thrashing, particularly the storming ‘In My Room’, when they play England in October. Verdict – buy or borrow because the five real songs on this nine-track album are fucking mint, however, prepare to be disgusted at the piss-poor sound. Damn shame.
Scribed by: Adam Stone