Monday, 20 January 2014

Record Review - The Windy Hills

Published in the January 2014 issue of Rhythms Magazine.

The Windy Hills
Fall Of Planet Esoteria
Warner Music

It’s been a long time coming, but the new cut from north coast natives The Windy Hills isn’t about speed. It isn’t about style over substance either, or fitting into a ‘sound’ so as to be noticed by as many as possible. Fall Of Planet Esoteria is its own entity, a painstakingly crafted album as opposed to merely a collection of 10 songs, each track, whatever its sonic signature, contributing to an overall picture which is pure Windys – focused, pointed, shimmering in its own unique way.

For this album does shimmer. Inspired in large part by both early surf guitar albums, as well as the warm, layered Laurel Canyon sounds of the ‘70s, it’s heavy on the reverb, stabs of wavering guitar prominent throughout, the rhythm section creating a base as reliable as the ebb and flow of the mighty ocean, from which this record draws indirect inspiration.

Led by filmmaker and musician Andrew Kidman (guitar/vocals), The Windys (Marty ‘Jose’ Jones, guitar; Jay Kruegner, drums; Paul Brewer, bass; and newest member DB Porter on keys) paint a sonic picture. At times, it is perhaps a little hard to see what that picture is, as they wander off into Floyd-inspired noodles (a bit too much shimmer), but even these, once you’ve listened a number of times (remember, it’s not about speed), reveal themselves as integral parts of a larger mural, that of longing, lament and most of all, freedom.

To my mind, the album highlight is fourth track, ‘Cars’. With a breathy vocal refrain, it lulls you almost to sleep before Brewer’s bass kicks back in and the guitars wake up, they’re razor sharp at first, before settling down into a Sabbath-inspired chug and grind. Opener, ‘Song Of Many’ fades in and out slowly (it’s a slow, gracefully lumbering beast); live staple ‘Blinded’ gets a quieter treatment than you may have seen on stage; ‘Muscle Memory’ is a Queens Of The Stone Age-esque number that bundles along at a brisk pace, a basic stoner riff from which the band then elaborate.

Fall Of Plant Esoteria is an extension from its predecessor, Friend From Another Star in that it goes deeper and emerges with even more – there’s a lot happening, which can sometimes dampen the effect, but overall, it just fits – it’s a record which stands as the band’s best work to date, without a doubt.

Samuel J. Fell

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