New York’s White Hills have been pushing their music forward with every album they’ve released since the mid-2000s. A mix of psych, post-punk, space rock, art rock, and pretty much anything forward-thinking that’s come out over the last 50 years, White Hills’ Dave W. and Ego Sensastion want to move you and your mind to the far reaches of the universe. With albums like Glitter Glamour Atrocity, Heads on Fire, White Hills, H-p1, and their most recent LP 2015s Walks For Motorists White Hills used fuzzed-out guitars, slinky bass, and heavy synth layers to paint dytopian visions, gothic undertones, and scenes set adrift into volumes of black space.
With dystopia of Orwellian proportions bleeding into our everyday realities every time CNN is turned on, Dave W. and Ego Sensation have taken their songwriting from fuzzy existential drifting to stark focus on their new album Stop Mute Defeat. It’s their most concise album yet, painting a musical world that feels steely, mechanical, and cautionary. At times it feels like you’re riding through some futuristic factory with black and white TV screens mounted on the walls with subliminal messages running through walls of static. The grooves of Walks For Motorists have been replaced with mechanical structures and industrial precision.
“Overlord” opens with siren-like tones over a looping drum beat and distorted guitar. It’s a stark, cold musical world but one that White Hills wields with great ease. “A Trick of the Mind” sounds like early 80s alternative. A mix of Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure with a bit of Love and Rockets thrown in for good measure. Dave W’s robotic vocals rattling the cage we’re all currently looking out of. “Importance 101” moves along on hazy synths and the band’s warning of “don’t rely”. “Attack Mode” rolls along like a steamrolling heavy metal machine. It’s the most “rock” song on the album, bringing to mind albums like Frying On This Rock and So You Are…So You’ll Be.
There’s always a couple moments on a White Hills album where the genius of the band truly shines. One of those moments of Stop Mute Defeat is the excellent “If…1…2”. This hypnotic track seems to be channeling Suicide and Butthole Surfers through the filter of a William Gibson novel. It’s a menacing and captivating track that pulls together everything that’s truly great about White Hills. Another moment of White Hills’ excellence is “Sugar Hill”, which pulls some more of that early Cure magic into the fold with Ego Sensation’s propulsive bass line and the spidery guitar lines.
“Entertainer” and “Stop Mute Defeat” round out the album with dystopian glee, the former slinking along with robotic dexterity while the latter finds some post-apocalyptic grooves to finish the record out on. It’s like Devo and Gary Numan had a music baby and “Stop Mute Defeat” was that bundle of joy.
Stop Mute Defeat shows Dave W and Ego Sensation yet again pushing their sound to new heights. The album pushes and pulls and slinks and sways along like some steampunk machine trying to make sense of society and the current political landscape. White Hills have given us a musical statement on our current tumultuous times the only way they can.
7.8 out of 10