Black Holey Smokes
Getting Supernaturally High with White Hills
Some bands bring psychedelic rock that suggests a natural high instead of one borne from hallucinogenics. Brooklyn's White Hills are one such group. There's something utterly elemental about White Hills' majestic compositions; they're electricity, organically manifested and shaped into artful, atmospheric turbulence. Too many psych-influenced bands can't resist the genre's more kitsch accoutrements, but White Hills—guitarist/vocalist Dave W., bassist/vocalist Ego Sensation, and drummer Lee Hinshaw—formulate this music from a brashly exploratory, no-bullshit course. Launching y'all out of mundane reality is serious business, and White Hills have no time for frivolous swinging-'60s signifiers. Like the Stooges, Hawkwind, Loop, and Monster Magnet, White Hills dazzle and soar with overwhelming sonic muscularity and intensity.
The band's releases so far—including titles like White Hills, Heads on Fire, Stolen Stars Left for No One, the new full-length H-p1, plus some heady collaborations with British kindred spirits Gnod—form one of contemporary rock's most consistently levitational canons. If you're looking for a rewarding entry point, try "Visions of the Past, Present and Future" from Heads on Fire. It marauds in like a distant cousin of Hawkwind's "Brainstorm," and then downshifts into an enigmatic miasma of simulated bird cries and suspenseful, mantric bass lines. Gradually, things ascend to an even higher plane of consciousness, with guitars FX'd into beautiful auroras of chaos. Going further out, the 26-minute "Don't Be Afraid" is one of those extended journeys that match masters like Pink Floyd for subtle tectonic structural and mood shifts. White Hills' tracks often surpass the 10-minute mark, but rather than soporifically drag you into a mire, these works rivet with a mixture of grandiloquent melodies, tantalizing textures, and hypnotic repetition.
On H-p1, guest spots by drummers Kid Millions (Oneida) and Antronhy and synthesist Shazzula Nebula add even more thickness, aggression, and orchestral grandeur to White Hills' already black-holey sound, which drive home the band's judiciously deployed anticorporate lyrics with crushing force. ("Paradise" and "A Need to Know" are brilliant tangents into motorik krautrock and vaporous ambience, respectively.)
Accounts of recent White Hills shows indicate that they're transcendental experiences. Sounds like a (super)natural high.