White Hills has never really been part of the crocheted-poncho subset of the psych-rock scene, but the New York duo has also never done anything as downright heavy as Walks for Motorists. Their umpteenth release is a collection of rugged riffs, serrated noise and terrifying, otherworldly vocals.
Singer and guitarist Dave W. and bassist/singer Ego Sensation bring a leering ferocity to these nine songs, which are at once hypnotic and thunderous. They pile an amazing amount of squalling guitar over a brutal looping bassline on “Wanderlust,” ride Dave W.’s sledgehammer riff downward into a velvet abyss on opener “No Will” and lock into a machine-like beat punctuated with stabs of guitar and distorted megaphone vocals on the title track, which closes the album.
Dave W. sings throughout like someone who took the brown acid and discovered he liked it. He bites off the lyrics with diabolical precision on “No Way,” makes pronouncements worthy of an Old Testament prophet on “Wanderlust”—“Some of us will be kings/ While others go to work lying facedown in the dirt,” he intones—and delivers his vocals in staccato bursts on “£SD or USB” in between blasts from a synthesizer that sounds like jet engines powering up.
Though White Hills isn’t given to the meandering jams that color some corners of psychedelia, the duo stretches out on “Lead the Way,” which is nearly nine minutes of scuzzy guitars swirling past an implacable beat. Startlingly, for a band so immersed in guitar grime, there are a couple of songs here that don’t feature any. You hardly miss it on “Life Is Upon You,” which pulses with growling synthesizers that underpin call-and-response vocals, while the instrumental “I, Nomad” takes a slightly more obvious approach with layers of atmospheric keyboards. Despite the different focus on Walks for Motorists, it’s less a reinvention for White Hills than an evolution from a prolific band with a restless streak.