Watching KISS dominate the Download Festival in 2009 in all their tickertape-drenched glory is the greatest show I’ve ever seen. After watching their mammoth 2-hour set on the Saturday night, I returned to the arena for the Sunday action unfazed by the to-be-expected throngs of KISS t-shirt wearers. What did make me sit up and take notice however was the perfectly-positioned stand in the merch village already selling overnight-pressed CDs of the previous night’s show, complete with prepared packaging, artwork and set-lists! In getting my head around the actionability of this all-too exclusive piece of profitability, I realised just how important the nature of branding is to a music industry struggling to cope with declining album sales. Roadburn Records have begun to truly come of age by taking once-in-a-lifetime performances from some of the world’s greatest underground acts and immortalising them in living rooms and iPods the world over with an elegant, but not excessively vast, catalogue of ‘Live at Roadburn’ releases.
From Wino to Church of Misery to the stunning Yob 2010 CD/DVD combo, and now the very first live record from New York’s masters of psyche-rock White Hills, this small label is slowly branching out on the fruits of a festival set-up which rightly refuses to expand beyond its beloved core followers. And what an addition to the catalogue this is! White Hills truly are a scintillating live band and then some. Having been introduced to their live experience at Supersonic Festival earlier this year, I was blown away by their swirling hypnotic boogie, the technical perfection of the fuzz-rock sound and a mesmerising display of light and visuals complete with costumes both wacky and retro enough to make Robert Plant look like a tracksuit-wearing poser.
All of the above comes sailing across my stereo speakers in terrific clarity on ‘White Hills Live at Roadburn’. New tracks from the epic 2011 release H-p1, namely the title cut and ‘The Condition of Nothing’, utterly dominate the senses, mists of cosmic guitar, juggernautical basslines and solid beats blast the listener into a higher realm of sonic delight. Dave W’s outer-galaxy cries wail across sounding like the MC5 playing a gig in a cave on Mars; quite simply epitomising the very meaning of heavy psychedelia. Meanwhile, even without her easy-on-the-eye stage presence, Ego Sensation’s deep bassy throb is enough to ensure that eight-minute-plus opener ‘Three Quarters’ rocks harder than the Jimi Hendrix Experience playing a Hindu temple on the last days of their lives. ‘Under Skin or By Name’ and ‘Radiate’ are slower, more esoteric reincarnations of classic Amon Dϋϋl or Hawkwind records, bubbling under a haze of distorted guitar walls and cackling electronics.
This release is a great addition to both White Hills’ and Roadburn’s neatly and steadily built portfolios of mind-warpingly timeless music. Even without the visuals, vintage clothing attire or volume-inflicting stage set-up, there’s no denying these New Yorkers’ pedigree as a live act is solidified by this epic show. Long live Roadburn Records and the cosmic mindfuck of White Hills. And KISS.
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Scribed by: Pete Green