I’ve been sitting in this cafe for ages, except that I haven’t. I put the Master Sleeps album by Hills on and as a result I’ve been somewhere else completely, dragged away from my reality to a place of much more varied aural topography. A place where Krautrock holds court in the psychedelia kingdoms that Hills explore with this album.
I look up. It is quite a jolt, as the drone of ‘Death Shall Come’ ebbs away into the sea of my subconscious, to see other people: the baristas and my fellow coffee drinkers, the pastries and paninis, the faux marble and leather furniture. I wonder for a moment which is the most cogent reality – I’m still wondering.
Hills have been around for a while, not quite as old as the… well you get my point, but they have several releases to their name, not least this their second album, which originally came out in 2011, but was re-released by Rocket Recordings in 2013 with a mind-blowing new cover by Brazilian artist Bruno Borges.
The album gets underway with ‘Rise Again’ a massive statement of a track which hits you right between the eyes and just keeps on pounding away. It has a heavy motorik groove that is the bastard child of Can and Neu! and is quite reminiscent of Wooden Shjips at their most heavy. From there we are transported to the aridity of ‘Bring Me Sand’, with its arabesque melody you being to feel the thirst as reality begins to merge with the endless horizon and the mirages begin to gel into fantastic aural sand sculptures.
The chill out continues with Claras Vaggvisa, combining eastern tones with formal organ structures you feel practically horizontal by the time the track is finished, it is beautiful and sets the scene for another full on assault of the senses. For 2’ 33” The Vessel powers through screaming reverb guitars, emergent organ, and a great droning rhythm sections. Then the mother of all psychedelic swirling TUUNNNEESS! breaks out. It is ambitious and euphoric in equal measure, one of my great musical moments so far this year.
This, though, on serves as being the overture for ‘Master Sleeps’, an eight minute centrepiece to the album. It is on this track, particularly through the intricate drumming work, that you can see the link to Goat. But this is a much more full on psychedelic affair with muttered vocals and motorik drone, it was here that I was fully lost from the grind of every day coffee beans.
Then the final come-down, the descent from mortality that is ‘Death Shall Come’, a dirge that I found reminiscent of The Doors’ ‘The End’ and Joy Division/ Now Order’s ‘In A Lonely Place’. It’s simple, it has beauty, it is cold and hard. It is the void of death set to music. We cannot escape it but we need not fear it.
Master Sleeps, then, is a complete song cycle which takes the listener to the highs and lows of their perceivable experience, and then pushes beyond them. It begins with hope and ends with death, and as such it demands to be listened to as a complete work, now where was I?