White Hills @ NYC’s Mercury Lounge (04/10)

On a chilly Tuesday night in the Lower East Side, Mercury Lounge was filled with space rock enthusiasts. Local stoner metal sensations White Hills took the stage. The power trio, fronted by guitarist/vocalist Dave W. and bassist Ego Sensation, wasted no time getting down to pure sonic annihilation. Ego looked foxy in black velvet, her clear acrylic bass reflecting the pale blue lights shining above her. Dave’s makeup, dark eyes set in a pale face, gave him a ghoulish appearance. Drummer Nick Name provided the raw power, timing, and finesse needed to support this dynamic trio.

Opener “Radiate,” from 2009’s ‘Heads on Fire,’ set the tone for the evening, with its hypnotizing chorus, thundering riffs, and layers of effects. As the song wound down, cymbal washes led us into the sprawling, swirling soundscape of “Song of Everything.” This and the three songs which followed all came from the band’s most recent release, ‘Frying on this Rock,’ and they shined in the live setting. Dave went to the mic and pronounced, “The universe sings the song of everything.” He spoke of sapphire and sunshine, and implored the audience, and indeed all of mankind, to open their eyes, hearts, and minds to a new way of being — continuing a message which the band also expressed on 2011’s ‘H-p1,’ as Dave explained to Rock Edition in our track-by-track feature about the album. Floydian guitars shimmered and echoed. Slowly a riff grew out of the swirl, like a cairn being built one stone at a time, until suddenly “You Dream You See” erupted in a blaze of fire.

Now we were riding Hawkwind’s wings, flying straight for the sun, powered by an epic wah rocket. The journey continued through fiery hellholes and psychedelic chase scenes, powered by insistent bass riffs and dizzying guitar solos. The intensity of “You Dream You See” faded into swirling washes of sound like crashing waves, from which “Pads of Light” arose with pounding ferocity. “Robot Stomp” was a clear homage to krautrock: its simple, motorik beat was highly reminiscent of Neu!. The aggressive “Upon Arrival,” from ‘H-p1,’ kept the energy level in the room up, and featured a blistering guitar solo from Dave.

The band grew briefly meditative with “Under Skin or by Name,” from 2007’s ‘Glitter Glamour Atrocity.’ Slow drones in D filled the room. As the song gradually picked up, Ego began to play a descending melody high on her G string. An epic jam steadily built up around her. At the peak of intensity, Dave let loose with a string of obscenities, which I’ve loosely translated as, “Eat shit! Fuck! Eat shit! Fuck! Eat shit! Fuck!” The song was capped off with an unexpected key change/outro.

They closed the show with a masterful rendition of “H-p1,” from last year’s album of the same name. The song drove hard and heavy for at least ten minutes — probably longer, but the audience was too spellbound at this point for anyone to be able to give an accurate reckoning. Little by little, the song slowed down as it came to the end, like a berserk mammoth becoming progressively inveigled in tar. Dave knelt to coerce insane sounds out of his pedals. Eventually the sound ebbed to virtually nothing, and the obelisk that is White Hills faded and disappeared into the air, leaving nary a trace.


Song of Everything
You Dream You See
Pads of Light
Robot Stomp
Upon Arrival
Under Skin or by Name