White Hills

Frying On This Rock

Such is the ferocious work ethic of White Hills that their idea of relaxation is considering whether Death By Audio’s Total Sonic Annihilation pedal is a better bet than the Deucetone RAT distortion box, by sticking their heads into a PA system while setting their amps at world destruction levels. Probably. See, given the New York space cadets’ schedule over last year or so – the release of the wormhole inducing H-P1, relentless touring and finding time to put out a live album in the shape of the limited edition Live At Roadburn 2011 and a tour CD-R entitled Oddity II: Night Scene On Mill Mountain, as well as other sundry low-key releases – taking time off is as alien a concept to White Hills as is turning the volume down.

For which we should be thankful. Where most bands struggle to come to terms with living in the real world following an intense bout of touring, White Hills simply head back into the studio to harness the power they’ve been generating over a concentrated period of time. Of course, there’s a danger to such a tactic. A dearth of ideas could simply lead to noise for the sake of it, or the worst kind of noodly jamming that would undoubtedly create a black hole as they disappeared up their own arseholes. Rest easy, heads – planets may be destroyed in White Hills’ sonic wake, but it won’t be down to them sucking.

That White Hills are fresh off the road is in evidence throughout Frying On This Rock. The electronic flexing that characterised its predecessor – see the throbbing motorik pulse of ‘Paradise’ or ‘A Need To Know”s diving droning for evidence – is in short supply, and in its place stands monolithic riffing and hypnotic, trance-inducing repetition. As displayed by opener ‘Pads Of Light’, superfluous embellishment is jettisoned in favour of riffs so diamond hard they sparkle with an almost blinding intensity. There’s no fucking around here, as White Hills get straight to the point.

‘Robot Stomps’ takes a bludgeoning riff and stretches it over nearly 12 trance-inducing minutes. On the surface, White Hills’ approach is to repeat guitar patterns ad infinitum, but listen closely and the added layers of squelching, squalling guitars are brought to life as they coalesce with ominous keyboard effects. There’s a brilliant deception at play here as what’s taken at surface level is belied by the interaction contained within.

Helmed by the extraordinary drumming of touring tubthumper Nick Name, the closing 14-minute epic ‘I Write A Thousand Letters (Pulp On The Bone)’ perfectly encapsulates the solid rhythmic anchoring of bassist Ego Sensation, whose circular grooves set guitarist Dave W free to explore a whole realm of aural possibilities. Aiding the beguiling noise is the input from Julian Cope drummer Antony ‘Antronhy’ Hodgkinson whose keyboard treatments and effects punctuate the maelstrom with a delightful degree of subtlety.

Rawer than H-P1, Frying On This Rock is far from being a throwback or even a stopgap. It stands on its own two feet and crucially employs a refinement of ideas that proves that space is indeed deep. It’s a big universe out there and White Hills are here for the long haul.

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