Ride on a Meteorite

WHITE HILLS / Frying on This Rock and H-pl (Thrill Jockey)

Nowadays, say you’re listening to a band, it can be hard to tell how deep the irony goes, or if the band’s schtick is irony at all. You might ponder this when you grok self-proclaimed “space rock” masters White Hills, who come off all Hawkwind, Blue Cheer, Motorhead and Virgin Prunes rolled into one freakily brain-pinching sound. “This fucking rocks,” you’ll likely say when you hear the band’s fashionably unfashionable new record, Frying on This Rock or 2011’s H-pl, and you’ll be correct on that, since White Hills kustom-kraft their shit to hit all the right headbangin’ buttons. But there’s a lot more going on here, and it’s serious stuff.

White Hills are Brooklyn-via-San Francisco guitarist/visionary Dave W. and bassist Ego Sensation. H-p1 was an ambitious double-LP that sprawled over a vast universe of sludgy ecstatic-doom, minimalist drone and ambient soundscapery, all of which served a concept telling the story of a shady government owned and operated by corporate monoliths.

“H-p1 is a term like a scientist would name a virus, like HIV or H1N1,” says Dave W. “The record has a theme about what we see as the disease of greed that permeates our society and our culture.”

Dave W. says it’s about damn time.

“I wanted to make a statement. We’re traveling the world, meeting people and hearing about people’s woes, and seeing this globalization of a few people really sticking it to everyone, and nobody doing anything. Nobody saying anything.”

Be that as it may, White Hills don’t make a lot of big lyrical pronouncements about our contemporary worldwide woes.

“The concept takes place through the sound,” says Ego Sensation. “It’s a revolution of sound, disrupting the status quo via sound waves.”

Frying on This Rock brings a tighter, riffier edge to the band’s air of mind-frenching psychedelia. Slash-riffing fuzzed-out ax leads, greasy dollops of wah-wah, bowel-blasting bass, random constellations of out-and-out noize: It rocks intensely, with a newfound determination and focus. Like H-pl, the new album puts into acutely thrashing action a lofty bunch of ideas, and it’ll hit a lotta nerves with people seeking something, well, yeah, substantial in their heavy, heavy rock.

Both records are also incredibly loud.

“I want our records to breathe,” says Dave W. “Why constrict the air that you breathe?”

Why indeed? And if White Hills smoke a little weed from time to time, that’s their prerogative, the System be blowed.

“Weed has been stigmatized in this country and around the world because it’s a euphoric thing,” says Dave W., “and it causes people to mellow out, it causes people to not be angry and aggravated. If you have a warring society and an economy that’s based on an industrial war machine, you aren’t going to want your society to be getting stoned, ‘cause then nobody’s gonna wanna fight.”

“A lot of times before we go down to the studio we’ll get high, to loosen up and find new places to go,” Ego adds. “It’s a great way to challenge what your inner barriers are telling you to do.”

What, one wonders, might lay beyond the barriers…And how far these White Hills will roll…

“As far as I can,” says Dave. “There’s no end in sight. It’ll only go as far as we want it to go. It’s life, it’s in my soul, it’s me, it’s my art, and as long as I feel the need and want to make this art, it will be made.”

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