More overtly rockin' than Sunburned, more visceral than NNCK, Burnt Hills can peel paint with feedback and pummel with a lysergic glee akin to cosmic travelers AMT or High Rise. Usually running eight or nine musicians strong, their ability to listen to each other and subsume themselves into one giant, roaring group mind is something to behold.
This record begins with a mid-tempo stomp, while the band's four (five?) guitarists blaze away over the top. Melodic lines appear and vanish, ragged skirls of feedback flash like sunbursts, and the bass and drums sit tightly amid the glorious mess of the guitars. A xylophone sticks its head up into the mix during brief moments of space, fading away almost as quickly as it surfaces, and all the while the guitars mingle atonality with a tremendous balance of texture. Combining heaviness with a pure Krautrock groove, the track ends on an ecstatic surge of energy, as trails of feedback entwine and disengage.
The second side-long piece finds Burnt Hills in drifting mode; a laid-back groove establishes itself, accompanied by chattering xylophone and lurching guitar. Shrill feedback blends with rapidly-strummed high-fretboard work to create a forceful ebb and flow, and the track stays in a celestial orbit until it stretches out into a long, expansive coda. Slow analog noises putter around the spare foundation of the drummers and bassist as the rest of Burnt Hills gradually brings their volume down. The band makes great use of space at the track's end—despite the deep numbers of the Burnt Hills crew, they can pull back and play softly when the situation requires it—and the record finishes like a lunar module settling onto the dusty surface of the moon, throwing off clouds of dust and exhaust as its momentum stops.
This Holy Room LP features outstanding artwork—its cover is a black- and gold-screened version of an ancient alchemical image. One of alchemy's numerous pre-chemical processes was distillation, and that's what Burnt Hills has done on wax right here—they have distilled a pure free-rock mysticism, from influences as diverse as noise, Krautrock, hardcore punk, free jazz, and classic rock. In the trees on the LP's cover, signs for the planets and the metals they represent hide in plain sight. As such, it is an appropriate metaphor for the shifting mass that is Burnt Hills' sound—one that is outwardly monolithic but rippling with layers hidden deep within the structure. Enjoy it on either level, the visceral or the cerebral. 8/10 -- Mike Griffin (8 September, 2010)