Music

White Hills: So You Are... So You'll Be

Photo: Antronhy

Played at deafening volume, with the lights turned low and incense lit, mind-expanding journeys have been guaranteed from White Hills in the past, but the band's latest release, So You Are… So You’ll Be, finds the group dropping from its cosmic trajectory for a more controlled burn through the atmosphere.


White Hills

So You Are… So You’ll Be

Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2013-08-20
UK Release Date: 2013-08-19
Amazon
iTunes

Space-rockin' trio White Hills might be geographically based in Brooklyn, New York, but the band's been rocketing about the galaxy with a tweaked-out, astral-planing flourish since the mid-'00s. White Hills' core members, guitarist and vocalist David W, and bassist Ero Sensation (who also provides her share of vocal passages), have been joined by a revolving cast of drummers along the way, and the band has left a ridiculously prolific and thoroughly enjoyable trail of fiery and fuzzed-out works behind it. Recent albums, such as 2011's H-p1 and 2012's Frying on this Rock, have been some of the band's very best hallucinogenic and sonically peaking works, with motorik-meets-acid-jam meltdowns stacked with heavily psychedelic and stoner rock riffing, all layered with Hawkwindian effects.

Played at deafening volume, with the lights turned low and incense lit, mind-expanding journeys have been guaranteed from White Hills in the past, but the band's latest release, So You Are… So You’ll Be, finds the group dropping from its cosmic trajectory for a more controlled burn through the atmosphere. That might come as a surprise to fans expecting more of the same heads-down, trance-inducing spacerock of the past and, in truth, So You Are… So You’ll Be doesn't provide quite the same propulsive highs, or the same berserk buzz.

With a lengthy discography already filled with energetic rockers to enjoy, there's nothing wrong per se with White Hills exploring a different course on So You Are… So You’ll Be. However, the retro-electronic gusts of "Circulating", "OutWords", and "InWords" are mere blip-and-beep interludes, and while "Rare Upon the Earth" and "The Internal Monologue" make for whimsical journeying--containing flashes of Eno, Spacemen 3, and the band's extraterrestrial obsessions dunked in boiling acid--their gentler drone is a tad, well, timid, even featureless.

Elsewhere, things are far more promising. "Mist (Winter)" melds a Neu!-worthy stomp with sci-fi electronics and hypnotic bass, and "Forever in Space (Enlightened)" drowns the Stooges in a swamp of mucky shoegaze--and features the album's very best blistering soloing. "In Your Room" rips it up with a step-by-step chug up and down the fret board over squalls of electronics, with W's vocals sending out the call for a SETI-echoing response from Sensation. And, if the album had contained more of that, then we'd be looking at another untrammeled and wholly successful release from the White Hills. But, we're not.

Producer Martin Bisi returns on So You Are… So You’ll Be, and he captures the endless layering of reverb-drenched guitar and technicolor effects very well. White Hills plays to its strengths with repetitious riffing followed by the obligatory chaos of W stomping on the pedals to let loose the wall-of-noise wig-outs, bringing the deranged stonk that fans desire. But overall, the album offers more of a bumpy trip than a red-hot psychedelic experience.

Obviously, not every musical journey can be a kaleidoscopic masterpiece, but the endless unrestrained animation we've come to expect from White Hills isn't as prevalent on So You Are… So You’ll Be. It's not as if the band has lost its spark either, because there are still incendiary passages to be found, and there's no sign of the band is stagnating at all. However, there's simply a sense that the wild-eyed psychedelic adventurousness has been curtailed.

That might not be an issue for some, because So You Are… So You’ll Be still provides mesmeric sonic trails to follow, and it’s not uninspired by any means. The grungy proto-metal grime and mantric space rock grooves are still here, and the band's interstellar weirdness still features strongly--with the outré effects underscoring the band's propensity for eccentric musings. However, the album lacks the uncontrollable jams of White Hills' past. Whatever the reason for that--and perhaps after releasing album after album White Hills is simply pausing for breath--So You Are… So You’ll Be feels, well, inhibited.

You only need listen to the band's Live at Roadburn 2011 album, or 2010's magnificently unshackled self-titled release, to note that inhibited is not at all something you'd normally associate with White Hills. Tuning in and dropping out is what it's all about. So, while So You Are… So You’ll Be still worships at the altar of the distorted riff and smoking amp--and, on its best tracks, it certainly explores sensory highs--the fact that it never fully leaves orbit might well find fans choosing to dip back into the band’s previous catalogue for more unbridled pleasures.

In the end, although So You Are… So You’ll Be doesn't shoot for the furthest reaches of the cosmos, as White Hills has done in the past, it does contain enough psyche-warping moments to make for an enjoyable album--just not the grease-streaked, galaxy-gazing, guitar glory we were hoping for. Still, there's no doubt that White Hills is committed to exploring the potential of celestial rock 'n' roll with uplifting oscillations and head-spinning reverberations, and that's what matters most. Onwards and upwards, next time round.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.