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N.R. Hills — Strange, Like a Scented Stone
(Celeno CEL NR4, 2002, CD)

by Paul Hightower, Published 2005-09-01

Strange, Like a Scented Stone Cover artThis is English musician N. R. Hills’ 4th album by my reckoning, and it seems to be along the same lines as previous releases. He’s a tough cookie to track down and his label has no web site so good luck finding this one. Plus, this is not an easy album to get into at first blush. Hills is a practitioner of electronic ambient music and this CD is basically one large work that’s comprised of many individual musical events that have been edited and cross faded together. The 42-minute experience doesn’t have a thematic arc or binding structure, yet you know you are experiencing music the whole way through. The individual passages remind me of everything from early Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk experiments with analog synth sequences to Philip Glass minimalism to Eno’s ambient experiments. There’s even bits that remind me of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow and Vangelis. At the other end of the spectrum are non-melodic pieces that sound like Genesis’ “The Waiting Room” or even qualify as musique concrète. Some of the passages exhibit strong melodic content while others are little more than raw tones that have been pushed through myriad synthesizer filters and envelopes. My sense is that by linking these starkly contrasting elements together, Hills is making the point that music exists in many forms, sometimes far beyond conventional notions of timbres or melody. On a certain level it’s all just an academic exercise, but proving the point means a rewarding listening experience.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 32, 2002 releases

Related artist(s): N.R. Hills

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