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White Hills – So You Are… So You’ll Be

Thrill Jockey

White Hills - So You Are... So You'll BeDid you know, in this age of budget-slashing and diversion of science funds to the military, that America actually has a SECOND space programme? While Commander Hadfield‘s been channelling Bowie on the International Space Station, and that Japanese dude’s been trading witty bon mots with his robot (yeah, Google it, it’s true, and we DO live in the future), it’s been toiling away at its own ventures beyond our orbit. And while the one everyone knows about is called NASA, and stands for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, the other, noisier one is called White Hills, which stands for “fuzzed out motorik spacerock.”

The latest vehicle to launch from their New York base is So You Are… So You’ll Be. Using some of the same technology deployed to such great effect on last year’s Frying On This Rock, when they successfully managed to launch many listeners into space and then return them safely to Earth – although tragically not all the test subjects’ brains survived re-entry.

This time they’ve used a similar fuzz-guitar/bleepy squirty noises fuel mixture and they’re trying to get through that void they reached last time and come out the other side. It sounds like they’re using one of those giant wormhole portal thingies that were left floating around in space millennia ago by Hawkwind and Sun Ra to do it, as well. It’s a bit like EVE Online, only with fewer spreadsheets. And more ROCK.

Yes, there’s a lot of rock, as well as a lot of space. Kind of like the Asteroid Belt but with more of a groove to it. “In Your Room” kicks it like Loop on angrier drugs, and it’s all outwards from here. There’s a raw, lo-fi quality to the mission’s hi-tech sheen; more like the Russian space programme than anyone else’s, really. It’s like a starship knocked together in a garage by a bunch of REALLY stoned mechanics (and a robot dog. Not sure why, I just think there should be a robot dog somewhere. In ALL situations) with duct tape and stolen welding tools. Only it’s the same garage that gave its name to garage rock, and somehow via the magic of portals it’s the same garage that EVERY GARAGE ROCK BAND EVER is simultaneously playing in.

Stompy robots are less in evidence here than they were on Frying On This Rock, but that doesn’t stop it being any less mantric and hypnotic. Imagine Solaris but with riffs. When White Hills lock into a groove, so does your brain, enabling you to go on a mahoosive fuck-off epic space voyage without dying. That’s how suspended animation works. (Note to self- check – Wikipedia before submitting review. Sneaking suspicion that that’s not actually how suspended animation works).

Echoed and drawled vocals stretch and smear against the twinkling backdrop of guitars as faster-than-light travel first rips everything adrift from its moorings and then condenses it all into a super-dense rock monster while solos spin out in all directions among the constellations, making it quite hard for the cosmic voyager to hold onto anything, most of all a coherent metaphor. But it’s OK because you’re not flying the fucking thing. And the pilots are definitely in control.

Every now and then the effect on the brain is such that it’s almost like you’re drifting, squelchy noises and a tentative bit of bass your only companions, but before long the riff thrusters kick in again and once more you’re hurtling outwards to places only the legendary cosmonauts of Comets On Fire and their fellow travellers have even attempted to reach. It’s quite a trip.

Maybe next time they’ll figure out how to get the passengers’ brains back alive at the end. That’s definitely something to work towards.

-Justin Farrington-

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