White Hills – H-p1 album review

The latest from psychedelic/space-rock sensations White Hills is a real journey that listener and artist take together, sometimes easy and enjoyable, but largely an uphill struggle with debatable promise of a reward at the end. Self-described as a political statement against a government “co-opted and controlled by corporations,” H-p1 is exuberant, alive, and natural. In its loyalty to a “natural” sound, however, the band sacrifices the importance it places on well-polished presentation. Angsty, cacophonic and exhilarating in its chaotic message, H-p1 is very clearly a personal offering, composed more for emotion than for musical coherence.

The album starts with “The Condition of Nothing”, an overly strong, rock-powered track. Noisy and full of misdirected intensity, the track could have been omitted from the listing. Long and repetitive, the track is interrupted only by a disorganized, haphazard musical interlude which was obviously inspired by some deeper impulse but does not seem to have been subjected to any filtering process. “Monument”, equally strange in the sounds that bear down from all directions is oppressive, even catacomb-like. But primitive percussive patterns give it a peculiar, almost hypnotic appeal. Fractured rhythms and layered sounds give it dimension, and therefore, character.

Other tracks like “A Need To Know” hearken back to White Hills’ space rock roots, expansive and still. Capable of being appreciated as an artistic effort, they still leave much to be desired in the musical department. “Hand in Hand” wanders and rambles about aimlessly, experimentally, with little by way of a goal or statement to be conveyed to the listener.

This is certainly not to say that there are no successes on the album. The final track, a whopping seventeen minutes long, makes a real impression, rallying together some of the best artistic techniques and stylistic statements from all eight of the other tracks, highlighting the robust talents of bassist Ego Sensation. A more discerning editorial system and a stronger critical ear may have helped the band leave more of their experimental plateaus on the cutting room floor and bring out their better music – it’s clear that they are capable of it.

A high point throughout the album is the rhythm section: Lee Hinshaw of White Hills and guest Oneida drummer Kid Millions. Although they are stylistically different, both drummers maintain a strong presence in most of the tracks, with a firm hold on the music and providing a strong foundation for the melodic phrasing.

Although sometimes overly driven and insufficiently balanced, White Hills’ passionate H-p1 still makes a strong impression on the listener. There is a message – it’s loud and clear.  It just might take a little patience to hear it.

By Nivedita Gunturi

Nivedita Gunturi is a medical intern and freelance writer. She is wrapping up her medical studies and is preparing for a residency in internal medicine. When she's not in the hospital, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen, in a coffee shop reading anything from the Economist to Herman Hesse, or writing about music, art, books and food. Or other random things. Follow her on her blog or on twitter @made2lovemagic

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