Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gnod Drop Out with White Hills (#5, 2010)

[A longletter from the faraway past - January 2011...]

White Hills can be pretty inconsistent. But in that best way that bands will be inconsistent - something about the hobgoblin of blown minds. I wouldn't go so far as to call them "all over the map" stylistically, because they do tend towards the psychedelic-space quadrant. But they are, in some ways, an experimental rock band - in the sense that they aren't afraid to play with forms and expectations. So you get standard blast-off space-rock jams, slow-burning drones with ambient noise, collaborations with a British electronics squad, etc... Something in their core style might fall a bit flat, or might play to their strengths. Sometimes when they go farther afield it yields unexpected treats, or something that doesn't work so well.

"Nothing Less" by White Hills, from Stolen Stars Left for No One EP (2010)

I think all the best bands do this to some degree - start with what they know and like, take it apart and tinker with it, experiment and fail or succeed, and put the best results back together into something that works. White Hills just replaces the last step with "make sure the tape was rolling and release it" (echoes of Emeralds side experiments). Having only recently acquired the Gnod, I'm not even sure that group has a core style. They are however inherently experimental and stylistically all over the map. I could see them becoming the flagship Astral Headspace band. The description above goes triple for them: you never know what to expect song-to-song, but much of it rules. The more recent albums probably seem more frequently "good."

cover ii
The 2xLP collaboration was just an embarrassment of riches. The White Hills self-titled album had a rockin' side and a dronin' side, and the latter was surprisingly satisfying. And them there's EP of loose, extended jams (whether rock or synth) represent the literal embodiment of my exaggeration about skipping the reintegration step of experimentation. It was real good too.

"Drop Out" from Gnod Drop Out with White Hills II (2010)

Just going to skip straight to the best: a tune so great they made it the title track... twice!! That throbbing bass, that kaleidoscope-carnival organ, that synthesizer swoop! And then the fuzz guitar, with some wild kind of ultra-vibrato and/or gating. I'm not sure how, but the drums manage to swing in an off-kilter way. It's totally sweet!

"Run-A-Round" - propulsive psych with all the accoutrements, even vocals! Probably the closest to a traditional rock song of the whole bunch. Guitars and keyboards play - together or alternating - in balanced equilibrium. The drumming's upbeat and steady, actually pretty damn catchy.

"Spaced Man" - phased and chugging space-out, noised up with Gibbytronix-style overlay. Settles down with a spiraling Dr. Who-ish electronic coda.

"Well Hang" - pinging synths over a tribalistic hand-drum, layering on the dramatic soundtrack flourishes. Sorta like Tangerine Dream vs. Popol Vuh in a deep electronic meditation cage-match.

"Per Sempre" - Side D, an ocean of atmospherics.

Wow. There's a bonus track on the CD edition that came out earlier this year, "Elka." You can stream a couple minutes of it from Aquarius Records.

Stolen Stars EP
That first video-psych up there covers the old-school kraut (and/or Emeralds) style synth-drone bases. From the White Hills' Stolen Stars Left for No One 3-song EP...

"Drift Away" - as the title might indicate, there's a bit of woozy drift involved across this 15-minute expanse. But not entirely. The lead guitar riffs and solos with psychedelic heft, as the rest of the band steps up the intensity.

"Don't Touch Me I'm Bleeding" - a murky stew of guitar feedback, cymbal splashes, bass pedal waveform, and electronic noise.


White Hills LP
White Hills self-titled was my first introduction to them ever. I don't even remember why I picked up the CD at the record store... Maybe just wanted something, and nothing else grabbed me. Anyway, it's weird and varied and different tunes hit me at different angles.

"Dead" - weird single. Like most everything on this record, the levels are truly strange. Everything seems submerged in the background, basically forcing the listener to crank it up. The drums come through a bit higher, but still not quite in the foreground. Listening-volume manipulation seems like the only explanation...

"Counting Sevens" - pattern-refracting and wave-crashing freak-out.

"Let the Right One In" - Wow, there's a major difference between the harder half (mostly up until here), and the more diffuse sound-trips (the next few). This one has a liquid bassline, some synth squiggles, and a lot of field-type sound effects (kids playing, sirens wailing, dogs barking) - and then a Slintesque break into heavier moods.

"Polve di Stella" - star-worshiping, sunlight-identifying grooves from the psyche of space. Trip-out guitar explosion wraps up the party.

Well. There are other songs somewhere in there, but my mind's been blown by a hobgoblin!

White Hills
Genre - Space-Rock Jams
Official - whitehillsmusic.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/whitehills
Location - New York, NY

Review - Roadburn
Download - others on Amazon & on iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure, All That Is Heavy

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