White Hills - H-P1

by Andy Brown Rating:9 Release Date:2011-06-20

This is White Hills' second album for Thrill Jockey and it's quite possibly the finest album of space-rock, noise and strung out psychedelia you're likely to hear all year. It's also a monumentally heavy record; like stoner-rock-royalty Electric Wizard paying tribute to space-rock gods Hawkwind. White Hills are far from a classic-rock tribute act though and neither do they fit neatly into the stoner-rock bracket. White Hills are a truly modern psychedelic experience and H-P1 might just be their masterpiece.

The album opens with the thunderous, near apocalyptic racket of 'Condition of Nothing'. With its heavy, propulsive bass and layers of twisted distortion, it's the ideal way to kick things off. Second track, 'Movement' is just over two minutes of drones and noise which lead us into the hypnotic, druggy groove of 'No Other Way'. It's the first track that stretches over 10 minutes and it's clear that this is where White Hills really excel. Given room to roam, White Hills make an expansive, mind-expanding and trance inducing noise. 'No Other Way' comes on like a less minimal sounding Om; there's the insistent repetition of the rhythm section but also a whirlwind of psychedelic noise.

'Paradise' continues to use repetition to White Hills advantage, this time complemented by an electronic, almost Blade Runner kinda feel. The importance of synthesizer player Shazzula to this record can't be overstated. Suffice to say, it proves to be an utterly absorbing 12 minutes.

'Upon Arrival' is the album's most straight-forward moment with its fuzzy, Warlocks/Mudhoney indebted rock. There's snarled vocals, fast riffs and even a glorious, Stooges-esque solo. This moment of celebration subsides into the strung-out weirdness of 'A Need to Know'. This then leads into the equally strange, 'Hand in Hand' which sounds like it could have been pulled from the Suspiria soundtrack. It's a creepy and supremely tense piece of music. H-P1 is a satisfyingly uncompromising listen, at times recalling such cornerstones of the psych-rock scene as Acid Mothers Temple.

The dark, tense atmosphere continues unabated with the wonderfully unsettling 'Monument'. There's a wall of disorienting noise before tense, tribal drums take the track in another direction - far from the slow, strung-out psychedilia they usually excel at, it's an incredibly intense piece music. The album ends with the epic title track, coming on like a potent mix of Black Sabbath and Sub Pop sonic-adventures Kinski. One of the few tracks to have vocals, 'H-P1' would be one of the albums slightly more straight ahead moments were it not for it's 17 minutes duration. Every minute though, dear reader, every goddamn minute is absolutely priceless.

White Hills could have easily made a straight ahead psych-rock album, 10 tracks of blistering guitar solos complete with vocals on every song. Come to think of it, I'm sure that album would have been pretty great. However, playing it safe never yielded any truly remarkable results. White Hills have been brave and taken the creative plunge and in doing so have made a genuinely interesting, at times terrifyingly brilliant record. Make no mistake, H-P1 is a thoroughly contemporary album.

With H-P1, White Hills have comfortably aligned themselves with such forward thinkers as Teeth of the Sea, Drum Eyes and Oneida. They're also part of a long tradition of genuinely psychedelic bands. White Hills; they're a history lesson and your future all in one.

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