live review: White Hills, London The Lexington 24th March 2012

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White Hills are notorious for their prolific output and hectic release schedule, but they have a new 'proper' album out on Thrill Jockey, Frying on this Rock, and tonight is being promoted by the Quietus as its launch night.
Special guests are Norway's Årabrot, who have added a bass player to their usual guitar and drums set up. Maybe I was just distracted by their lack of clothes, as each member stripped to the waist at the start of the gig, but I found their first few tunes a bit underwhelming. I was expecting them to be a bit unhinged but what I got was Melvins-style metal, which is fine, but I enjoyed them a lot more when they got looser and they hinted at Jesus Lizard and the Birthday Party influences. The bassist added some extra drums to a couple of songs and the two core members traded vocals towards the end too. They were loud though, and I think that fact plus the unfamiliarity with their material drove some of the crowd downstairs.
The sold out audience soon file back and by the time White Hills take the stage there is a sense of anticipation in the air. Tonight they are a trio, with drummer Nick Name joining up with the core duo of Dave W. and Ego Sensation.

They have a bizarre recorded intro tape which is a pitch-shifted voice formally welcoming us to the show, before they launch into a blistering 'Paths of Light' with its single line repeated over and over again. It's track one, side one of the new album, but if anyone thought it was going to be a case of the new album in order, they immediately confound this by playing 'Radiate' from the early LP Heads on Fire. This gives Dave W his first chance to shine with the first of many wigged out, lengthy guitar solos, and Nick Name is already in danger of overdoing it on the drums. They go even further back into their past for 'Under Skin or by Name', before focusing on most of the new record in the middle section.

'Song of Everything' and 'You Dream You See' are two powerful pieces of space-rock, and just when it was getting a bit too similar, 'You Dream' reveals a mid-section that's full of surprises and takes the song somewhere else. 'Robot Stomp' is a monotonous slab of repetition on the album but it comes alive here and makes more sense. The doomy trance of 'Condition of Nothing' is a perfect way to follow it, connecting the twin influences of Hawkwind and Mudhoney to great effect.
Although billed as an album launch, this turned out to be a long set featuring lots of old and new material. I know the band are in the middle of an epic tour but it seemed that tonight was a high point for them and for the audience. They played a blinder and left a lot of people stunned, in that post-gig trance you can only get from this kind of immersive, psychedelic music. Top night.

1 comment:

  1. Just seen them in belfast last week. Wow no 5min songs here. It was great although the songs all sounded way too similar but it was still a great gig in a very small venue which is always better.

    The bass player looks super hot too!!!