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White Hills

White Hills

(Thrill Jockey; US: 23 Feb 2010; UK: 1 Feb 2010)

On their MySpace profile, White Hills describe their music as sounding like “deep space instrumental passages flow[ing] in and out of hypnotic grooves”, which is pretty much the most accurate way to describe the music that this New York duo unleash. On their new self-titled album, guitarist Dave W. and bassist Ego Sensation (yes, really) recruited Oneida’s Kid Millions to play drums on the entire record, which was also recorded at the Ocropolis, Oneida’s studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.


All it takes is one listen to the churning psych-rock of opening track “Dead” to remind the listener of Oneida’s own blend of psychedelic rock. While it’s great that White Hills have latched onto a certain part of the Brooklyn music community, Oneida is a hard act to emulate, so it’s nice that White Hills retreat back to their own musical territory as the album wears on. However, just because White Hills are doing their own thing doesn’t mean it’s still that original. Instead of Oneida, White Hills start to channel another Brooklyn band, A Place to Bury Strangers, especially with the fuzzed-out noise and spiraling riffs of “Counting Sevens”. It’s not a bad song by any means, but it’s certainly nothing the listener hasn’t heard before.


Fortunately, there are a few songs on this self-titled release where White Hills really do shine. The tight groove of crashing cymbals, punishing space-rock riffs, and Dave W. mumbling lyrics about someone not caring on “Three Quarters” shows White Hills truly in their element, not emulating their peers, but instead focusing on what they do best: crafting perfectly built-up psych-drone songs. Following “Three Quarters” is “Let the Right One In”, which opens with haunting church bells and bits of recorded street noise and eventually turns into a 13-minute instrumental behemoth, focusing around a plodding, repetitive bass line and then expanding towards the end with droning psych-guitars.


White Hills do seem to have a sense of humor towards the genre descriptions that usually plague them, as the song “Glacial” is entirely ambient noise with no drums or discerning melody whatsoever. Thankfully, they pick things right back up again on their next (and closing) track “Polvere Di Stelle”, a lumbering 12-minute long jam that utilizes Kid Millions’ drum talent, as snare fills and cymbal crashes punctuate a wall of droning guitars while Dave W. chants “We are the sunshine” and “Leave this world behind.” The song ends with White Hills’ true trademark: ricocheting guitar riffs that bend and play off of each other to create one of the most stoner-friendly breakdowns in recent memory.


White Hills may not be blazing any new musical pathways, but there is no denying that they’re good at what they do. Hopefully as the duo progresses, they’ll move even further away from the work of their peers and more towards achieving their own unique sound.

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