White Hills: Walks For Motorists, Review

Lead the way …

Lead the way …

Lead the way …

When I was a teenager I always dreamed of this moment, being able to wrap my ears around a favourite band’s new LP before it was released.  I would always imagine listening to it outside, preferably on a blanket in an orchard on a sunny day on my Walkman, a slight breeze on my skin and hearing that band’s best work before anyone else.  Flash forward twenty years and lose the Walkman, orchard and the casual narcissism, thanks to White Hills Walks For Motorists, I’m there.

White Hills Collection

A lot has been made already about how this is the White Hills album you can dance too, that producer David Wrench has bought out the band’s groove.  Dave W told me that he started White Hills to make ‘groove oriented spacey music’, which has come to the fore in their work occasionally* but more often than not, this seems to have been sacrificed for an all out sensory assault.  For large swathes of Walks For Motorists, as in life itself, the bass rules!  Just listen to ‘£SD Or USB’ which is predominantly a low-slung bass groove, where keys and what may, or may not be a heavily treated guitar occasionally branch off but comes right back to that ass-shaking bass.  Step forward and take a bow Ego Sensation! Always a really good bassist, but very often hidden behind the pyrotechnics happening elsewhere in the music, her playing really is up front and centre for great swathes of this LP and that’s a great thing. The production really showcases her contribution brilliantly.

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It’s always difficult forming a well-balanced opinion on a new album, invariably you haven’t lived with it enough to make all the connections yet but I’ve done my absolute best here to road test Walks For Motorists in as many different situations as scientifically as I can.  In a car at night? check – the epic, elongated world’s end cyber blues of ‘Lead The Way’ triumphs; On a treadmill? check – the groovily-driving, LCD Soundsystem-esque, ‘Automated City’ sound tracked my sweat;  On a train, dreading the working week? check – the stately slow explosion of ‘We Are What You Are’ fits the bill perfectly.

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Listening to Walks For Motorists I really get the sense that White Hills have made a real, defining statement and produced a startlingly well-crafted whole album experience with a very diverse selection of songs.  Everything we fans liked about them before is there in some measure** but jiggled and jinked about, presented to us in a different light, with added bass.  You want evidence? try out the atmospheric, spacey sweetness of ‘I, Nomad’, or the quite extraordinary ‘Life is Upon You’, which features more singing and harmonies than I’ve ever heard on a White Hills album – it’s a real cool knowing NY track, almost like Sonic Youth channelling one of Velvet Underground’s soppier, poppier moments.

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My favourite though, right from when I first heard it in my virtual orchard, is a little two-minute number called ‘Wanderlust’.  Over a propulsive bass groove, Dave’s vocals fix a menacing line and when he let’s rip half way through his guitar tone is so wonderfully, cosmically, filthy and jagged you really should have a tetanus jab as a precaution just for hearing it.  It rocks ecstatically then hits its’ grove again before finishing – over and done in 167 seconds, all the more potent for being so concentrated a blast.

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I like hearing bands progress from album to album, seeing whether they stick or twist with the sound they have, sometimes change works, other times it doesn’t.  Walks For Motorists isn’t only a progression, it is a stark act of evolution.

Walks For Motorists hits the streets on April 7th and I’m really struggling to think of any reason why you, being a discerning aficionado of all things spacey, groovy, dancey and rocky wouldn’t want this in your collection.  Trust me on this one.

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Always room for more …

522 Down (Still)

P.S – Thanks to Ken from Thrill Jockey.


*think ‘Robot Stomp’ from Frying On this Rock, or personal fave ‘Paradise’ from H-P1.

**apart from a track title which rivals ‘Return Of Speed Toilet’ for sheer wondrousness.

26 thoughts on “White Hills: Walks For Motorists, Review

  1. An excellent review, as always. Just got an email from Thrill Jockey that something has been shipped to my home. I’m hoping it might just be this album. They said it wouldn’t be ready till May. I’m hoping they were wrong on that.

    Really excited to live with this one on the turntable.

  2. I had heard nothing about this group before this week – after your series, I have been persuaded to fix the error of my ways.
    I’ve enjoyed your living in ‘the now’ – something I rarely do musically!

    1. Thank you. It’s been fun to hit something new for a real change. I really like them a great mix of lots of great old stuff and a wide swathe of originality. Plus Ego has set my daughters picture of her as her Facebook profile pic. I will love her forever for that.

  3. I don’t know White Hills’ music, but between Thrill Jockey, Facebook, record store flyers, and now this review, I am running out of reasons to stubbornly refuse to enlighten myself on what this new (to me) band has to offer…

    1. You have nothing to lose apart from your chains! Oh and your cash. Oh and lots of shelf space. Oh and whole days spent staring into the void of interstellar psych-space!

      Would really recommend new one and, my fave, H-P1 (no, not a type of pencil !)

      1. Oh, goddamnit. I’m watching the video for/spacing out to “Dead” right now, the first video that Google gave me. I can already feel the money burning from my wallet, and my willpower to do anything else draining from my soul. I fear they have possessed me….

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