Skip to main content

Hills, Sweden



Samples
Facebook
Website

Originally published on July 17, 2011 and updated on February 3, 2012. Moving post forward to highlight their new album Frid.

Hills are among the finest of the neo Krautrock bands one can hear today. They are still active as of August, 2016..

Hills - s/t. 2009 Intergalactic Tactic Records (LP); 2010 Sulatron (Austria CD)
Hills - Master Sleeps. 2011 Intergalactic Tactics Records (LP); 2011 Transubstans (CD); 2013 Rocket Recordings (UK CD; LP)
Hills - Live (EP). 2013 Cardinal Fuzz (UK LP)
Hills - Frid. 2015 Rocket Recordings (UK CD; LP)
Hills - Live At Daemonens Port. 2015 Kommun 2 / Svensk Psych Aften (2 LP)

Regarding the debut, this is one of those cases where I bought the LP (the pink vinyl edition no less), since I didn't figure it would be issued on CD. I probably would have waited otherwise, but what the hey, the LP is pretty cool looking. But owning it on CD with the bonus tracks was necessary too. I may one day part with the vinyl, but not in a hurry to do so. The cover on top is the vinyl edition, whereas the orange cover is the CD. I have not heard either of the live albums to date.

----Hills

Hills are probably the closest recent band I've heard to conjuring up the spirit of the original Krautrock movement. Mistakes and all. Hills restrain themselves from the endless jam that befell bands like Acid Mothers Temple and, as noted recently, Sulatron's latest signing from Detroit: THTX. Plus Hills reintroduces the flute as an all important ingredient, starting right away on 'Death 1', adding a much needed soft lead instrument to the typical harsh textures that the genre calls for. 'Istiklal Street' reminded me of the Cosmic Jokers, though a slight 2 minute trimming throughout the piece would have helped. 'You Talk The Talk!' is a dead ringer of Kraftwerk's debut (for you kids just startin' out, that would NOT be like the Kraftwerk you are familiar with): The echoed flute, shimmering guitars and pounding metronomic drums are to die for. ' Rainship [Solregn]' is like a psychedelic Neu!. The familiar driving beat but with obvious space rock / psychedelic textures.Bonus track 'Schlaraffenland' made me glad I bought the CD just for this. Similar to tracks 3 and 4, but even more in the vein of Ash Ra Tempel's 'Freak N Roll' from Join Inn. A hypnotic space rock jam. 'Messias' is another bonus coming from a previously released cassette.

Hills have enormous potential. I highly recommend this album as it is. However, I'd like to see them tighten the ship a bit, focus on a little melody and add in some more compositional structure, as they could really put out a monster album here. They have the RIGHT sound.

----Master Sleeps

We spoke of Hills debut last year, and now we'll cover their much anticipated followup album. I felt Hills on their debut showed a lot of promise and that they'd captured the spirit of the original Krautrock movement very well. Master Sleeps shows the band moving more towards the trendy, post-rock motorik side of the house with the familiar steady 4/4 Can/Neu! styled beats. On other tracks you'll hear the "wall-of-sound" fuzz guitar overload ala classic Hawkwind. I'm fond of all these bands, but I was hoping Hills would explore new regions of the genre, or at least walk down the road less traveled. So for me, even though I still recommend Master Sleeps, I do think the album is a bit of a step back. I definitely miss the flute, an instrument that greatly extended their range. Now that they're on Transubstans, I think the band will benefit from the larger exposure and perhaps bring about a bit of validation of effort. We'll see what album #3 brings.

Excellent synopsis here from Scott, who in turn likes this album better.;

Another good review from Aural Innovations.

----Frid

Frid is the 3rd studio album from this fine space rock / Krautrock band from Sweden. Overall, this is a fairly conservative effort. Meaning... Hills seems all too content to play to genre norms, including motorik styled beats, and fuzz guitar explosions. The band is so rigid in their structure, if would appear they might break in half if they threw in an actual meter shift, or a completely new idea. The beauty of the original Krautrock scene was the escaping of expectation, and blowing minds with exploration. Tonality and color continue to be challenges for the band, as they've never replaced the warmth of the flute from the debut. Sitar is a nice inclusion, though it's unclear who plays what, since the album lacks any kind of documentation.

Despite all these minor gripes, I'm predisposed to liking music such as this, which is probably the only reason I rate it as high as I do. I will submit though, that Frid is a slight improvement on the even more rigid The Master Sleeps. The highlight for me is the ending of 'National Drone' which segues nicely into the superb 'Anukthal is Here'. This is as close as Hills has gotten to their own early 70s native music scene like Algarnas Tradgard and Flasket Brinner. And 'Och Solen Sänkte Sig Röd' won me over on the third straight listen (and 3rd beer). Sometimes it takes that effort...


Last update: August 20, 2016

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Litmus, England

Website
Samples 
ProgArchives

Litmus - You Are Here. 2004 private
Litmus - Planetfall. 2007 Rise Above. CD and LP
Litmus - Aurora. 2009 Rise Above. CD and LP
Litmus - Slaughterbahn. 2012 private. CD and LP

"You Are Here": Blazing out of the gates with a monolithic guitar riff, twee-twee-twee Moog knob twiddles, and a neanderthal 4/4 rhythm, I was immediately reminded of those 90s aggressive festival rockers Omnia Opera, minus any of their Floydian cosmic buildups. Or, of course, I could have mentioned the real inspiration at work here – which would be primo early 70s era Hawkwind, if Lemmy ran the band that is. They put the “B” in subtle, and pulverize most of the songs right through the wall. The keyboardist is the same gentleman who runs the excellent Planet Mellotron site, and so no surprise the mellotron gets more than its share of studio time. Though good luck in hearing it over the racket. I like my space rock a bit more cosmic and trippy me-self, but OK, that’…

Kenso, Japan

Website
Facebook

No new updates from Kenso since 2015.

Kenso - s/t. 1980 Pam (LP); 1995 Arcangelo (CD)
Kenso - II. 1982 Pam (LP); 1993 King (CD); 2002 Pathograph (CD papersleeve)
Kenso - s/t (aka III). 1985 Nexus (LP; CD); 2011 King (CD papersleeve)
Kenso - Sparta. 1989 Crime (CD); 2009 Pathograph as Sparta Naked (CD)
Kenso - Yume No Oka. 1991 King; 2011 Pathograph (CD papersleeve)
Kenso - Esoptron. 1999 King (CD); 1999 Musea (France CD)
Kenso - Ken-Son-Gu-Su. 2000 Pathograph (CD)
Kenso - Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis. 2002 Nexus (CD); 2002 Vinyl Magic (Italy CD)
Kenso - Utsuroi Yuku Mono. 2006 King (CD)
Kenso - Uchi Naru Koe Ni Kaikiseyo. 2014 King (CD)

There are many other live and archival releases from the band, though I only own Ken-Son-Gu-Su. All the other entries above represent their studio albums. There's also a 14 CD box set on King that contains all their studio albums through 2012, as well as a handful of live recordings.

For a band with so many recordings, an…

Egonon, Italy

Website
Samples

Egonon - Risveglio. 2011 private

Here's one courtesy of our Gnosis friend Eddie - the same gentleman that brought us all those wonderful Romanian albums earlier in the year.

The 1970's Italian progressive rock greats are regarded as such because of their innate ability to compile and distill the influences of their day. Namely classical, jazz, rock, indigenous folk, avant-garde, and canto. And a big old scoop of youthful exuberance. Considering this, Egonon are true to the philosophy of their ancestors. Rather than recreate the sounds of the 70s, as many Italian bands are doing today (and wonderfully so I might add), Egonon are assimilating their own influences. In their case, the list might look like: Heavy Metal, Alt-Rock, World Music, funk, and... everything that was also included in the 1970s Italian progressive rock scene, including the end result of said scene, which they clearly respect and pay homage to. It may be a restaurant with too many ite…

Happy Family, Japan

Facebook
Samples

Happy Family - s/t. 1995 Cuneiform (USA)
Happy Family - Toscco. 1997 Cuneiform (USA); 1997 Arcangelo
Happy Family - Minimal Gods. 2014 Cuneiform (USA)

---

Perhaps no band arrived with such an in-your-face sound as Happy Family did in 1995. Their fabled live shows were popular amongst the tape trading crowd of the early 1990s. So there was quite a bit of buzz on what their first CD would sound like. The band insisted their albums come out on the preeminent Avant Prog label Cuneiform, and were willing to wait until that label had room on their release schedule. By 1995, anticipation was high, and Happy Family not only delivered, but exceeded, most everyone's expectation.

Consider the first track 'Rock & Young'. Hard to imagine anyone delivering such a strong overpowering opening punch as Happy Family did here. If this track doesn't move your heart rate up a few beats, you're probably dead already, and no one told you (did Aunt Sally for…

Fusion Orchestra 2, England

Website
Samples
Facebook

Fusion Orchestra - Skeleton in Armour. 1973 EMI
Fusion Orchestra 2 - Casting Shadows. 2013 private

Today we have a dual posting - with UMR doing the heavy lifting on the 1973 album...

Well, well, look who's back? I would not have thought of Fusion Orchestra that's for sure. Original guitarist Colin Dawson reformed the band, with 4 new players involved including the all important ingredient of a female vocalist - this time performed by the lovely Elsie Lovelock. Despite the new membership, the band sounds very much like an updated "Skeleton in Armour", which is all one could - perhaps should, given the moniker - hope for. Lovelock's vocals retain that husky soulful jazzy tone that Jill Saward brought forth in the early 70s. And it's nice to see Dawson continue to carry a psychedelic sound in his energetic guitar playing. On the keyboard front, Ben Bell, it appears, has decidedly gone with modern gear - much of it representing the sounds o…

Hooffoot, Sweden

News: Their debut album has finally been issued on CD! Something I plan on picking up. And references to a second album have been mentioned as well.

Website
Samples
Facebook
Location: Malmo

Overview: Hooffoot are a fantastic new retro prog band from Sweden. As of this writing, their debut album is the highest rated for 2015 on Gnosis!

Reviews (click on album cover)

Purson, England

News: Well... It appears Purson has broken up. One band member (George Hudson) has now hooked up with a new project called Flare Voyant. OK, let's see where all this goes. Bummer though, as Purson had enormous potential. Perhaps a reformation will happen. 

Facebook Samples
Location: Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Overview: The Circle & The Blue Door was an homage to 1971 England, whereas Desire's Magic Theatre seemed more geared toward 1969. They're going in the wrong direction for my tastes, but still intriguing enough to leave as an A-lister.

Reviews (click on album covers)


Atomic Simao, Ukraine

News: Hot off the press, Cosmic Eye of Greece have just announced they will be releasing the latest album from Atomic Simao on vinyl. Release date set for April 4th. Label says: ""Echo" is the second album from Kiev's ATOMIC SIMAO and we're privileged to issue it on vinyl, as a follow-up to their successful first LP "Nōdo" of two years ago.

On this sophomore effort, the band abandons the Hendrixian jamming of their debut and takes a long head-dive into funked-up spacerock. The style on this release is a complex instrumental mix of acidic guitar, psyched-out electronica and Middle-Eastern influenced laid back space-jazz feel. A multitude of rhythms are swirling everywhere, funky jazz grooves spice up the recipe the Funkadelic way, and a soaring sax brings the compositions to Gong's "Shamal" era territory and beyond. Adjectives to describe the listening experience: trippy, complex, eclectic, intense, surreal...

Overall, "Echo" is no…

Gösta Berlings Saga, Sweden

News: Their 4th album Sersophane was released at the tail end of 2016, and has garnered excellent reviews to date.

Facebook Website Samples
Location: Stockholm

Overview: On their first couple of outings, Gösta Berlings Saga could be considered the perfect modern Swedish progressive rock band. They look inward towards their own country for melodic inspiration, rather than the UK/US style of groups like The Flower Kings. Recently the band has moved into Post rock / avant prog areas, which moves a bit outside of my enthusiastic zone. I haven't heard their latest, but I'm very tempted to try it anyway.

Reviews (click on album covers)


The Morrigan, England

Website
Samples

The Morrigan - Spirit of the Soup. 1984 private (LP); 1999 English Garden (CD)
The Morrigan - Rides Out. 1990 private (LP); 1997 English Garden (CD)
The Morrigan - Wreckers. 1996 English Garden
The Morrigan - Masque. 1998 English Garden
The Morrigan - Hidden Agenda. 2002 English Garden

I haven't heard the debut, so we start with "Rides Out"...

On paper at least, England's The Morrigan doesn't sound like my cup of tea. In essence, The Morrigan play rocked out versions of English traditional folk songs. Or self-penned tracks that sound like English traditional folk songs. Fortunately I happened upon "Rides Out" not long after the CD release, and was captivated immediately. Not only are these spirited reproductions - or originals - but there is definitely a psychedelic/heavy rock slant to their approach (and guitar sound), reminding me of some of the early 70s greats like Mellow Candle or The Trees. The female vocals and recorders - heck th…