As often as we wallow in darkness and negativity in these parts, we have to shine a bright light every now and again. Much as we might not want to admit it, there is nothing wrong with basking in heavy music that actually makes you happy for positive reasons, and not because it jibes with your brand of nihilism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that either. But any time a true pick-me-up is in order, you could do far worse than reveling in the psychedelic fog of
NYC’s White Hills. This is one of those bands custom made for festivals like Roadburn, where heaviness, intensity, visceral experiences, and mind alteration all come together for the sake of a communal celebration. Ever since their formation a decade ago, White Hills have pumped out tons of releases, most on the mighty Thrill Jockey, and their latest “Walks for Motorists” is another blast of fuzzed up, raucous fury. The band actually strips things back a little on this one, going for a simpler, more direct approach, but that never does anything to undercut their power nor dull their teeth. It’s a damn fun nine songs we have here, and the music speaks to the spirit of White Hills and their loose, organic energy.
The heart of the White Hills machine is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Dave W and bassist/vocalist Ego Sensation, founding members of the group and its constant backbone as they’ve morphed through time. The band took a different approach to this new record, starting the songs on keyboard and bass and building from there, thus creating a different type of heaviness and dream haze than efforts past. But the music still is powerful, heavy in spots, and always intoxicating, and hearing the new material develop live—especially for those lucky bastards who will be at Roadburn—should be quite the experience.
The record gets off to a great start with “No Wills,” built on thick guitar fuzz, warped melodies, and gruff singing, with W wondering, “Do we dare to call ourselves creators?” The back end wallows in grime and leads the way to “LSD or USB,” a playful, ’60s-infused rocker that’s full of noise. Some of the sounds come off like an agitated engine firing up over and over again, with glimmery keys in the background, penetrating drone, and playing that will make your head swim. “Wanderlust” stomps right out of the gates, with buzzing lead guitar lines, maniacal singing bordering on psychotic, and the band later settling into more of a rock tempo that helps balance the insanity. “Lead the Way” is the longest cut at 8:53, with a scorching, calculating tempo that takes its time smothering you, strong and sunburnt soloing making it feel dry and summery, and the singing ever so slightly detached, like they’re fully control of the dream rocket to the sun. “I, Nomad” follows as a quick, zapping instrumental, where they keys are the primary ingredient and the music tastes like cosmic soup.
“We Are What You Are” sure comes off as a uniter, with scorching riffs, vocals that act as a callout to the masses, and declarations such as, “We are the light that sets you free.” The solos are scorching once again, and the band hits on a fiery finish that packs a satisfactory punch. “Automated City” is a different one, starting off with beats and then a thick bassline, with W’s phrasing reminding a bit of Dan Bejar. The bulk of this thing is awash in echo, giving it a really trippy glaze, and it spirals out into the darkness and the unknown. “Life Is Upon” you has an upbeat sense to it, which most of us metal heathens generally eschew, but what’s the point of all of that negativity? It’s easy to get immersed and lost here amid the poppier sentiments, the trade-off vocals, and the essence that feels like a grittier, heavier Raveonettes. The closing title cut unleashes key zaps and a wave of voice samples that swirl around and make you feel bizarre. The word “platelets” keeps getting repeated, so much so you might find yourself robotically calling it back, as all of the various sound elements come to a full boil and flood over.
White Hills, and this killer new album, are perfect weekend fodder when you need to ice over your mind or even for those evenings after a long day when you need something to give you a lift and fill you with energy. “Walks for Motorists” can help you achieve all of those things, and it’s one of their most exuberant releases to date. Or it can just help you trance out. Whatever you need, man.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/WHITE-HILLS/90476409450
To buy the album, go here: http://www.thrilljockey.com/catalog/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.thrilljockey.com/splash.html