Hills – Master Sleeps (Rocket Recordings)
LP / DL
Swedish band Hills re-released their second album on the brilliant Rocket Recordings last week. A psych classic it originally came out on a small Swedish label a couple of years ago, but due to the upsurge in interest in the genre the time has been deemed ripe for a re-release. Does it warrant it? For Louder Than War, Brett Savage investigates.
First released in 2011, Master Sleeps is a welcome and timely reissue (not least as the original vinyl pressings are rare as hen’s teeth) from Gothenburg’s Hills. Thankfully, the design conscious team lads at Rocket have seen fit to re-house the album in a much more attractive cover by Bruno Borges.
Hills have been playing dreamy, organic psych rock since 2007 and earlier this year released their ‘Live’ album which channelled the relentless pagan repeato jams of prime time Parson Sound / International Harvester and the Velvet’s Sister Ray. As an aside, Hills also have some inscrutable links to fellow countrymen – the all conquering Goat, and also share their love of all things tribal and hedonistic.
Rise Again opens the album with a rumbling Wooden Shjips style drive, shot through with phased guitar solos and tape echoed vocals. Bring Me Sand starts in a much more meditative fashion, but soon ramps up into a spacey raga infused jam, pushed forward by an intense, unvarying motorik rhythm that underpins the exotic melodies powerfully. You could well be heading out on an unscheduled and invigorating inner flight. Clara’s Vaggvisa offers gentle respite with its sleepy organ lines and the sound of babies mewling ambiently. It’s actually quite beautiful and much less saccharine than you would imagine.
The Vessel arcs back to Rise Again with its fuzz guitars weaving in and out of a tumbling backbeat, offering something of a wake up call after the somewhat dreamy lullaby of the previous track. The title track Master Sleeps fades in from midway through, suggesting that it could be part of a longer stoned-out jam. Reminiscent of CAN at their height, the vocals take on Damo Suzuki’s soft focus stream of consciousness, whilst the rest of the band lock into a wonderful classic kraut groove which mesmerises all the way to the end. Operating heavy machinery at the same time as listening to this could prove to be unwise. The album ends on the mystical dirge of Death Shall Come, a spacious ritualistic drone wracked with existential fear and finished the album on a sombre and ominous note.
Master Sleeps is something of a minor classic and hits on a lot of major touchstones of psych rock without ever seeming contrived or a dead-eyed retread of classic tropes. Hills are currently busy beavering away on their next album, which is due next year. This reissue of Master Sleeps has set my expectations levels very high indeed.
You can buy the album via Rocket Recordings Bandcamp.
All words by Brett Savage. More work on Louder Than War by Brett Savage can be found here.