White Hills are a psychedelic rock group from Brooklyn centered on the duo of guitarist Dave W. and bassist Ego Sensation. Its sound hews closely to 1970s space rock as perfected by groups like Hawkwind, to whom it is invariably compared. The band records and rehearses at Oneida‘s Ocropolis space in Brooklyn, that group’s explorations into the experimental potential of hard rock also informing the White Hills sound. This self-titled full-length finds the group playing loose with genre conventions and coming up with a sound that is relentlessly heavy but dynamic enough to avoid being oppressive.
“Dead” opens the album with the sound of a distorted guitar wailing into the distance; then the drums, provided throughout by Oneida’s Kid Millions, kick in to lend the track some real heft. Chugging along at a head-bopping clip that recalls the distinct marriage of dark psych and incipient heavy metal of early Black Sabbath, “Dead” is an exhilarating opener but a red herring when it comes to the varied pleasures of White Hills. Emerging from a thick, distorted haze with a looser vibe than “Dead,” “Counting Sevens” offers evidence of White Hills’ mastery of a subtler brand of psychedelic music. Just as the track’s repetitive qualities threaten to transform from hypnotic to tedious, “Three Quarters” begins with monotone lyrics recited over a punishing heavy-rock groove before one of the most gratifying guitar solos I’ve heard in a long while breaks out.
Just as the members of White Hills skirt the possibility of rock overload, they demonstrate their ability to change things up without losing focus on “Let The Right One In” and “We Will Rise.” These enthralling, meticulous and menacing mostly instrumental tracks form the album’s middle section; they are as accomplished as any self-conscious post-rock epic but have a harder edge and lack of pretension that showcases not just the group’s technical ability but also its ambition to push the boundaries of the stale psychedelic revival genre.
This ability to remain reverent to its influences without compromising its personal vision or sounding like a dull tribute act is White Hills’ greatest strength, and it’s on display throughout the album. Concluding track “Polvere di Stelle” (meaning “Stardust” in Italian) burrows deep into the throbbing, echo-laden core of heavy psychedelic music. It’s exemplary of White Hills’ approach to rock music, offering a compelling alternative to the bloodless monotony that characterizes much of contemporary indie rock.