The humming drone of space-rock is presumably meant to evoke numbness. There’s nothing anesthetic, though, about White Hills’ H-p1. The Brooklyn group’s latest coasts on its predecessors’ churning noise and cyclical riffs, but it’s also a prolonged concept album that’s jagged, cranky, and confrontational, both lyrically and sonically. From its paranoid narrative to its liquid-nitrogen ambience, H-p1 is as much a work of science fiction as music. And like the best science fiction, it lets its anxiety intersect with the here and now. Amid the album’s seismic psychedelics and icicles of synthesizer, singer-guitarist Dave W. and crew conjure up a nightmare world of corporate domination and technological enslavement meant to mirror our own. The only space in this space-rock is the kind where screams go unheard—and while the human element tends to get smothered under the music’s vast mass, that mostly reinforces the point.
H-p1 culminates in its 17-minute title track, an abrasive epic that splices Hawkwind’s medicinal hymns with Chrome’s proto-industrial buzz. It’s feels less like hypnosis, though, and more like deprogramming. In spite of the ostensible lull of its distorted, discordant undertow, the album forcibly draws attention, not just to itself, but to the corrupted world around it. Rarely has an album so narcotic felt so sobering.