There is never a dull moment on Hill Haints’ newest seamlessly ecclectic yet entirely original ep ‘Carcinogen’.
Though it will probably never be labeled noise rock, it’s certainly firmly in the wonderful meta-tradition of the way that classical noise rock challenges you to wonder where the noise ends and rock begins. But fortunately it forgoes unfortunate traditional noise rock facets such as improvisations and unending ten + minute bouts of feedback or other uninteresting lengthy nonsensical ill-fitting passages. Instead, every part of Carcinogen feels masterfully crafted and timed to perfection. Every instrument is firing on all cylinders at every moment you hear it. As soon as an instrument drops out, you can rest assured it’ll come back at exactly the precise moment it’s meant to in full force and get you going even further! It sounds as though the band has been working and reworking every part of this ep for years. Like I said, never a dull moment!
Honestly, you can’t really label it anything other than Hill Haints. While you can certainly hear the eclectic mix of influences (most strongly those of the Birthday Party and the Cramps), every collaborative piece of the total package on this recording is genuinely and originally the Hill Haints. Okay, for purposes which no current underground music act can escape they do refer to themselves as garage and no wave, but we think both of those labels are insufficient without at least something like ‘sludgebilly’ thrown into the description.
And this is a recording that sharply highlights the contribution of every bandmember. Drummer Skip Piper begins the tracks with heralding intros that then strike head on into fast driving punk rock beats. Bassist Kat Celentano alternately brings the driving garage lines and/or fuses an extra layer of fuzz noise and/or leads a track; whatever’s appropriate for the composition at hand. Unfortunately, this reviewer is unable to distinguish between which guitarist plays which part, but the interplay of Jonathan Hanson and E.S. Cormac calls to mind the sickening twisted melodic spurts of Rowland S. Howard overlaid with effects laden accents reminscent of, dare I say, the Stone Roses(?!) Hell yeah, they even seamlessly incorporate elements of shoegaze into this melange of propulsive noise!
Cormac’s vocals certainly challenge the notion of traditional pop/rock singing. Words are spoken and garbled and shouted and preached and thrown through a series of effects; alternately resembling Lux Interior, Jim Heath, and even Johnny Cash but always distinctly E.S. Cormac.
If only we had the lyrics I’m sure we’d be able to enjoy it more, but we don’t want to insert our interpretations of words we may be hearing wrong and enjoying the way we already hear them. It’s also unclear from the bandcamp page (https://hillhaints.bandcamp.com/album/carcinogen) how, where, and by whom this recording was done, but it presses all the right buttons at all the right times so you can hear every instrument loud and clear over a background of constant yet subtle noise.
The end most fitting to this review is to alert this garage/no wave/sludgebilly band that we anxiously anticipate hearing their next recording and can only hope it’s longer so we have more to gush over!