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White Hills

Heads on Fire

(Rocket; US: 8 Nov 2011; UK: 24 Oct 2011)

Supernova delights guaranteed.

Heads on Fire was the second album from space rock overlords White Hills. Long out of print, it’s been recently reissued on CD via the band’s original label, Rocket Recordings. White Hills have since gone on to record a number of acclaimed releases for label Thrill Jockey—all of which are well worth listening to—but Heads on Fire takes us back to when the band was taking its first steps into the chimerical void.

Drifting along a cosmically inclined spectrum of Kraut, space, psych and fuzzed out, reverb-heavy rock, White Hills are ardent peddlers of sublimely extraterrestrial wares. Beginning with the swirling synth and rolling, buzzing riffs of “Radiate”, Heads on Fire moves from one frenzied, corkscrewing solo to the next, with accompanying flourishes of exuberant percussion, thumping bass and beautifully warped keyboards. With a focus on the heavier, grittier aspects of space rock, White Hills toss out some thoroughly wicked and no doubt illicitly-inspired jams. “Ocean of Sounds” resonates with chanted vocal lines and huge, raw riffs. “Visions of the Past, Present and Future” is pure psychotropic madness, smothered in corpulent dollops of Hawkwind-like instability, and the 26-minute “Don’t Be Afraid” works its way towards its constellational climax with passages of twirling ambience and plenty of wah-wah lunacy. It’s a supernova delight, to say the least, and it’s gloriously hypnotic.
If you’re a fan of Wooden Shjips, Nebula, Cave, OM or Gnod you’d do well to check this out, although I’m guessing you already have. For the uninitiated, Heads on Fire is the perfect place to begin your journey into the endless galaxies of psychedelic rock.


Craig Hayes is based in Aotearoa New Zealand, and he is a contributing editor and columnist at PopMatters. Alongside his reviews and feature articles, Craig's monthly column, Ragnarök, traverses the metal spectrum. He is the co-author of PopMatters' regular metal round-up, Mixtarum Metallum, contributes to radio shows and numerous other sites, and he favours music that clangs, bangs, crashes, or drones. Craig can be found losing followers daily on twitter @sixnoises.

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