One of the albums that unfortunately fell through the cracks with me in 2015 was White Hills’ Walks For Motorists. It was one of those records I was extremely excited about as White Hills has been one of my favorite bands ever since I first discovered them courtesy of Joe over at 1537. I’ve even had the honor of interviewing Dave W and Ego Sensation twice, first back in 2013 about their then new album So You Are…So You’ll Be, then again last year about Walks For Motorists. Even with all that excitement the album sort of got left behind this year. I think it came out in April, but the vinyl was delayed for like a month or something. I don’t know. All I know is when it finally arrived we were in the midst of some painting project at home and the house was in disarray. I listened to the album a couple of times, as well as the bonus 12″ that came with the deluxe copy, and that was pretty much it. Vacations, wife gone on work trips, kids go back to school, other albums hit my ears, and the seasons change,…turn, turn, turn. So December comes, albums are re-visited, a list is made, posts are posted, and next thing you know it’s freaking January.
Goodbye 2015. Hello 2016.
So here I am on the Monday after the New Years holiday and I’m listening to Walks For Motorists at my desk and wondering why this didn’t stick better with me? It’s pretty phenomenal. Their 2013 album So You Are…So You’ll Be hit me right away. As I listen to songs like “No Will”, “Wanderlust”, and the epic space jam “Lead The Way” I’m convinced once again of Dave W and Ego Sensation’s innate ability to pull the listener from their drab, pedestrian surroundings and place them in some psychedelic wormhole and come out the other side into this R. Crumb-like hallucinogenic state. I think that’s what grabbed me in the first place in regards to White Hills. They’re not about being flashy(though they can flash with the best of ’em) and they’re not about being as heavy as possible(though they can be heavy as Black Sabbath under dense metallic gravity). They’re all about this incredible musical journey. Walks For Motorists continues that musical journey quite beautifully, with a much sharper, crisper musical palate than ever before. The dense layers of molten fuzz that encrusted previous White Hills joints has been replaced with a studio sheen and focused lower end. This record is a drum and bass smorgasbord. The Gibson Les Paul has been set off to the side in place of highlighting Ego Sensation’s monolithic fuzzy bass tones and emphasis on dark, groove-laden rhythms. Dave W has put the synthesizer front and center this time around, with the Les Paul filling in the cracks and crevices when needed. Producer David Wrench sounds like a perfect fit for White Hills. It still very much sounds like Dave W and Ms. Sensation, but interpreted through new ears.
Also, with previous White Hills records, there were usually a couple instrumental pieces that would fill the voids with atmospheric lushness. “I, Nomad” does that in spades, feeling like floating through some technicolor tear in time. The last and title track “Walks For Motorists” is sort of an instrumental, with the sound of a voice in conversation underneath the long-ish groove-heavy tune. There’s also some classic guitar heavy psych in the form “We Are What You Are”. “Automated City” is part android techno and part space rock noir.
The album as a whole has a noir-ish feel to it. Glamorous, dark, seedy, and dystopian. This is definitely a dance record. It also feels like one step closer to White Hills making that Siouxie Sioux/Bauhaus/Echo and the Bunnymen-inspired 80s alternative record. I very much look forward to hearing something like that. 4AD-meets-endless space rock jams? Yeah, I could go for that. Until then, I’ve got Walks For Motorists to enjoy.
Editor’s Note: I must also note that with previous White Hills releases, this one came with a bonus 12″ called Drives For Pedestrians. It’s 30 minutes of extra music, which in this case is trippy, atmospheric, spacey jams. These extra albums are such a great surprise. They may not have fit on the overall LP, but they’re definitely not table craps. Check out their tour-only EP Stolen Stars Left For No One for proof. That’s as good as half the actual LPs released nowadays. Thanks White Hills. I won’t forget you next time.