N.R. Hills — Strange, Like a Scented Stone
(Celeno CEL NR4, 2002, CD)
by Paul Hightower, Published 2005-09-01This 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.
Related artist(s): N.R. Hills
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more