White Hills

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
No Game To Play (2003), 7/10 (mini)
Glitter Glamour Atrocity (2007), 6/10
Heads On Fire (2007), 6.5/10
Abstractions And Mutations (2007), 6.5/10
A Little Bliss Forever (2008), 6.5/10
White Hills (2010), 5/10
H-p1 (2011), 5.5/10
The Process (2011), 6.5/10
Frying On This Rock (2012), 5/10
So You Are So You'll Be (2013), 5/10
Walks For Motorists (2015), 6/10
Stop Mute Defeat (2017), 5/10
Splintered Metal Sky (2020), 4.5/10

New York's White Hills, the brainchild of guitarist Dave Weinberg and bassist Ego Sensation, debuted with countless confused and tentative CD-ROMS that ran the gamut from cosmic music to electronic rock. The mini-album No Game To Play (2003 - 300mics, 2016) is probably the best of the early works. Its nine-minute No Game To Play coins a new form of psychedelic cosmic industrial techno. The eight-minute They've Got Blood Like You've Got Blood couples Neu's motorik rhythm and Tangerine Dream's cosmic music in a driving hypnotic trance.

They revisited Hawkwind's abrasive hard-rocking space-rock on Glitter Glamour Atrocity (2007), containing the 14-minute synth-tinged boogie Glitter Glamour Atrocity (with a whispered eerie melodic coda) and the evil, aggressive, panzer-like, ten-minute Love Serve Remember (with a section of audio collage embedded in it) next to all sorts of different formats, from the old-fashioned acid litany of Spirit Of Exile to electronic drones and instrumental folkish lullabies.

Even better was Heads On Fire (Rocket Recordings, 2007). The stoner-rock epic Oceans Of Sound, reminiscent of both Black Sabbath and Cream, was a nice detour from the swirling machine-gun freak-out of Radiate and the pummeling quasi-metal ten-minute Visions Of The Past Present And Future (with synthesizer noise and an explosive "return"). The slow, suspense-drenched 26-minute Don't Be Afraid, instead, takes too long to get anywhere after gothic vocals introduce the theme, despite an otherworldly blues coda.

The limited-edition Abstractions And Mutations (2007), with the 15-minute instrumental Left Behind, was a nice corollary to their theorem: a slow hypnotic groove-based crescendo that leads to a Gong cosmic-psychedelic trance and to a Jimi Hendrix-ian glissando feast. It would remain their artistic peak.

They evolved towards the two more contemplative, languid jams of A Little Bliss Forever (Drug Space Records, 2008), the first album featuring Oneida's drummer Kid Millions: Walking Uphill Against The Wind, another suspense-filled slow blues that this time is oddly reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's How Many More Times, and the slow-grinding, pastoral My Girl Soars Blind, whose second half is a metaphysical concerto of musique concrete.

The EP No Kind Ending (Diagnosis...Don't!, 2009) contains a 16-minute jam for guitar and synthesizers.

They began a collaboration with Gnod on the albums Aquarian Downer (2008) and Drop Out (2009). Drop Out With White Hills II (Rocket, 2010) was another collaboration with Gnod (and Oneida's drummer Kid Millions).

Black Valleys (aQuarius, 2011) documents a live performance without drums.

White Hills (Thrill Jockey, 2010) marked a sort of new beginning, with brutal trips like Dead and Three Quarters, as well as the 12-minute acid ballad Let The Right One In and the psychedelic meltdown Polvere Di Stelle. The album runs the gamut from simple and compact songs to extended convoluted compositions, and from highly energetic to subtly sophisticated.

H-p1 (Thrill Jockey, 2011) contains the ten-minute No Other Way, the 12-minute Paradise and the 17-minute H-p1. These more ambitious workouts, however, bring to the fore the fundamental limitations of the band, capable of great ideas but not necessarily of great implementations. There are bits and pieces that are absolutely stunning, but drowned in a lattice of cryptic sonic doodling.

The two lengthy pieces of the cassette The Process (Sonic Meditation, 2011) elaborate on the same sound of H-p1 in a looser manner.

The mini-album Stolen Stars (Thrill Jockey) collects rarities. They also began a series of Oddity albums, six of them as of 2015 and ten of them by 2018.

The music on Frying On This Rock (2012) was even more obscure than on H-p1. The musicians play for themselves, frequently displaying schizophrenic instability as they switch from one mood to the opposite (like in Pads Of Light and Song Of Everything), and somehow they find a reward in the shapeless counterpoint that they achieve, but, instead, the 14-minute I Write a Thousand Letters and the twelve-minute Robot Stomp stand as monuments of ill-applied ambition. Just like in the previous albums, there are moments of genius (especially in Robot Stomp) but the price to pay for those few ephemeral moments is just too high.

So You Are So You'll Be (2013), with new drummer Nick Name, continued the disappointing trend started with their eponymous album of 2010. Mostly the album contains filler, predictable filler, Forever In Space is the classic space-rock dejavu that any teenage band can do after listening to a couple of Hawkwind albums. So much so that an old-fashioned audio collage like the instrumental The Internal Monologue stands out as "original".

Walks For Motorists (Thrill Jockey, 2015) is the typical "transition album", still attached to their roots in psych-rock but willing to branch out in all sorts of directions. The single No Will is a cross between early Pink Floyd and the Stooges. Some of the songs remain in that hard/acid vein, notably the Led Zeppelin-ian blues-rock of Lead the Way, the Hendrix-ian feedback feast of We Are What You Are and even the pulsating semi-industrial PoundDC or USB. Others, however, seem to belong to a different band: the synth-driven exotic instrumental I Nomad, the dark electronic dirge Automated City and the tribal machine funk of Walks for Motorists.

The five-song EP Drives for Pedestrians (2015) contains leftovers (one of their many EPs).

Stop Mute Defeat (2017) contains the seven-minute Overlord, a slow Sisters Of Mercy-esque dance with Satanic overtones, but mostly sounds like a revival of gothic dances of the early 1980s.

In 2020 they unleashed an avalanche of singles: the four-song EP Time Out (2020), which contains the seven-minute First Hour Silence and the eleven-minute Sisyphus, the four-song EP The Last Time (2020), with the eleven-minute The Last Time, Time and Time Again (2020), A Point in Time (2020), with the nine-minute A Picture Unto the World, One Day at a Time (2020), with the 13-minute Freedom to Be, Electronic Time (2020), with the nine-minute Revolution Is My Religion, In Due Time (2020), with a nine-minute version of As you Pass by (a 2016 single), and This Time (2020), with the nine-minute This Time TNT.

The Splintered Metal Sky (God Unknown, 2020) sounds like a childish imitation of the industrial dance music of the 1980s, when Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle veered towards the dancefloor. Hence the catchy Digital Trash, the abrasive Honesty, and the agonizing Rats. The problem is that most of the album is filler (like too many of their releases). This should have been a four-song EP.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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