White Hills

Walks for Motorists

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When New York-based psychedelic camp White Hills emerged in the mid-2000s, they latched onto the same wandering, spaced-out spirit of dark, cosmically drifting guitar-heavy rock famously explored by pioneers like Hawkwind and Amon Düül II. Their trajectory seemed in line with other space-brained rockers of their time, including prolific output in the form of multiple limited-edition releases that would often include lengthy jams that grew more fried and alien-sounding as the band continued. Walks for Motorists represents something of a sea change for White Hills, as the album sees them turning away somewhat from the guitar-centric freakouts of their previous work to songs built more on concentrated, stripped-down grooves. Not to say that this newfound clarity means the band is any more sterile or less psychedelic. Album opener "No Will," based around a churning rhythm and a repetitive fuzz bassline, is a dirty, terrifying start to things, with the occasional chiming of haunted backing vocals being the only thing steering the song away from becoming an industrial track somewhere between Suicide and Alien Sex Fiend. This sleazy sound shows up throughout the album, as with the gnarled groove of "Wanderlust" and the explosive "We Are What You Are." Other moments tend closer to previous work from the band, as with the lengthy Spacemen 3-modeled guitar psych burner "Lead the Way" and the icy Krautrock electronics of "I, Nomad." Bassist Ego Sensation offers more vocal contributions to this album than any other since co-founding the group, always augmenting her bandmate Dave W.'s aggressive and narcotic performances with a detached and ghostly presence. Walks for Motorists is a reinvention of sorts for the band, but it's a confused and unclear one. While not without some standout moments, the album lacks some of the atmosphere inherent to the band's more free-floating space rock jams. While the snap into tightly focused and sometimes more fiery songwriting is remarkable, the songs aren't as across-the-board strong as they'd need to be to make the entire album as remarkable as the shift it represents.

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