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White Hills - H-p1

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Artist: White Hills

Album: H-p1

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Aug. 12, 2011

H-p1 has beautiful near-silences. Though replete with heavy guitars and whirring electronics, White Hills build tremendous open moments into the end of nearly every song on this very long album. The music dissolves slowly into hisses and buzzes, insect synths and low drones crowned with upward spiraling scales. Listening to this album on a home stereo, one hears these sounds blend invariably into the summer noise-scape of fans, air conditioners and passing cars. Since White Hills describe this as a concept album — one in opposition to corporate co-option of the government and “the simplification of complex ideas to keep the masses from questioning the system” — this album’s ability to weave itself into everyday experience, serving as an undercurrent only to escalate loudly and angrily, seems like part of the plan.

White Hills’ sound has changed a bit compared to its catalog, particularly on the two songs enhanced by Oneida’s Kid Millions’ drums. Hawkwind’s big riffs-in-space sound remains an obvious influence, though at different moments the band veers harshly into abstract Kraut electronics, or, as on “No Other Way,” approaches stoner rock with a bass line identical to one on Sleep’s Holy Mountain. As with those bands, the occasional thin, straining vocals detract from the overall sound, particularly on the otherwise raging “Upon Arrival.”

Sleep is also a predecessor to White Hills’ sense of continuity. H-p1 could be one long song, shifting from heavy rock into washes that grow agitated and hyperactive, until they return to the titanic guitar solos that pack the album’s final 17-minute title track. They crafted this record tightly; it remains nervous and needling where similar bands’ efforts settle into jams and drones. Anyone seeking the nightmarish flipside of a Herzog soundtrack will find H-p1 a rewarding listen.

By Talya Cooper

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