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White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Album Review)

Friday, 26 May 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

On ‘Stop Mute Defeat’ New York’s White Hills have shelved their brew of Hawkwind-like psychedelic stoner rock and post-punk to take inspiration from the work of postmodernist writer William S. Burroughs. “Desperation is the raw material of drastic change,” Burroughs wrote in Naked Lunch. “Only those that can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.”

For fans of their earlier work - excluding the middling ‘Walks For Motorists’ and its divisive embrace of synths - the idea of a total departure from what’s gone before will sound a little ominous.

After a period spent concentrating on other artistic interests, such as the medium of video and hallucinatory abstract paintings, core members Dave W. and Ego Sensation returned to the studio to find that the demoralising state of political affairs had directly affected their new music.

Feelings of trepidation, concern and dismal resignation are stamped all over ‘Stop Mute Defeat’, so much so that it proves to be a very challenging listen from the word go. Guitars once again take a back seat in favour of an electronic, industrial presence.

Opening with the seven minute, single-paced behemoth Overlord, it feels more like stepping into another world entirely than a new psychedelic rock collection. It trudges along like a juggernaut determined to reach its destination, not before nightfall, but before daybreak. Its doomy message instructs us to “defy the laws of your country”.

The pummelling, urgent beat of A Trick Of The Mind then employs a bleak and vacant post-punk style akin to Joy Division. It’s a more satisfying effort, although repeated use of the title and the line “no one is sane” will ensure that, indeed, no one will be left sane after too many plays. Attack Mode represents possibly the best moment here, with its wah-wah guitar marking an ever so slight return to the past. Its blend of metal riffs and shouted, politically-charged vocals could wake the dead.

The end of the world seems nigh on If…1…2 as a pounding drum pulses among lasers and other automated noise (it’s like being on board a Borg ship from Star Trek). The track is almost as unlistenable as Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’ and mixer Martin Bisi, of Sonic Youth fame, has some input here, no doubt.

Bursts of guitar, a staccato bassline and electronics combine with a meandering synth melody on the user un-friendly Sugar Hill, while Entertainer sounds like a morbid death march, its title being as far away from its sound as you can imagine. Things do pick up for the title track, where a much faster, Sigue Sigue Sputnik-style beat raises the energy levels. But it’s all a little too late to wake us from the intentional nightmare.

With very few footholds offered, it’s a struggle to get into ‘Stop Mute Defeat’ at all. While the message is clear enough, the complexity of both the soundscapes and its sense of despondency leaves you reeling at the edge of the abyss. To be fair, this may be an accurate representation of life in the western world, but in these times maybe our stark reality demands escapism more than ever before.

White Hills Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Fri May 26 2017 - LEICESTER Musician
Sat May 27 2017 - PRESTON Continental

Click here to compare & buy White Hills Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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