Tuesday 1 September 2015

Hills - Frid

Article by KevW

Given that we cover a lot of different styles of psychedelia, it almost feels as though we should have been following Swedish group Hills from day one (they formed in 2007), but it wasn't until our man in Malmö reviewed their album 'Master Sleeps' in 2013 that they really hit our radar. The psychedelic scene in Scandinavia has really taken off these past few years though, even threatening to eclipse the more established metal and indiepop markets. You could argue that Dungen have been leading the charge for some time, and with Hills' label-mates Goat bringing home the plaudits, it could be that the country will surpass Denmark as the European capital of deep, mind-bending sounds. Dig a little deeper, though, and there are numerous Swedish psych bands from the '60 and '70s that the modern pack take their cue from.

It is the weightier, fuggier side of the genre that Hills explore on new album 'Frid', but they do so with an awesome groove too. Look no further for deep, rumbling bass, guitars that sound as though they're on fire and an almost danceable beat than opening track 'Kollektiv', where the blueprint for this almost entirely instrumental cosmic trip is laid out. It's sharp and heavy, yet still finds the time to break for a sitar section which lightens the load a little before it grinds to a halt. There are definite elements of drone-rock at play as well, something they even spell out for us on 'National Drone', but chimes, interesting percussion and garbled voices make this more hypnotic than anything else, especially with the loud but distant chanting; there's an Eastern flavour to be found on more than one occasion. 'Anukthal Is Here' feels lighter and more spaced out, giving a nice contrast to the more intense, acid-fried tracks, although this eventually gives way to more squalling and scorching guitar textures and the full-on barrage of the rhythm section. Despite being instrumental, the song ends up being flooded with melody.

Fans of more conventional song lengths might like to note that 'Milarepa' comes in at just over three-minutes, making it the shortest track here by some margin, while also containing the trademark deep trace-psych ingredients that 'Frid' is built on, perhaps offering a good starting point. A flute dances over the top of it, offsetting the smokey darkness. They do follow it immediately with the epic, over ten-minute voyage that is 'Och Solen Sänkte Sig Röd', where wah-wah pedals and a deftness of touch create a slightly different vibe, but one that's just as eerie when the mysterious vocal arrives. This is a proper jam, but not a dull one; Frid are a band with ideas... and effects pedals. After 'Och Solen Sänkte Sig Röd' has slowly built to a searing conclusion, it's left to the cheerily-titled 'Death Will Find A Way' to wrap things up in a surprisingly accessible (well, by comparison at least) way, incorporating handclaps, Eastern mysticism, wind instruments and a calm, quite and pretty climax. 'Frid' is an intense album, it may take a few spins before it all begins to make sense, but it's worth that time. And it should sound totally storming when played live.

Hills' website

Stream or buy the album

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