(All Album Reviews by maribor)
Not really a big surprise. Another multi-instrumentalist solo artist to review. These seem to be popping up everywhere on the underground progressive scene. Fortunately there is a difference between N. R. Hills and some of the other new solo artists I've reviewed. Hills doesn't want to sound like a band. He's on his own here and he doesn't use all sorts of gadgets to make it sound as if three other people were giving him a hand.
Hills may sound like he's on his own, but that doesn't mean his sound is small. On occasions he may sound as grand and big as Vangelis. Most of the times however, he focuses more on the minimalistic aspect of music. He takes a single melody and works on it throughout most of the song. The melodies are superficially quite simple, but there some difficult parts once you get below the surface.
The music is hard to pinpoint. One of the major influences was probably Vangelis. The music is mostly played on keyboards, with some assistance by percussion and guitar. On rare occasions there are also some vocals or spoken parts. You could really call this chill out music. It seems as if it was made to make you relax. Usually, the melodies are soft and soothing and have an ethereal character. There are a few times, though, when there is some aggression in the music as well and there are also a couple of darker passages. This is nice for richer variety. Another positive aspect is that he hardly ever uses programmed percussion and even when he does it’s not vexing. Best tracks: “Romeo & The Beast”, “Don’t Go Into The Apple Tree”.
All of these eleven tracks are taken from three of his albums and this is basically a compilation. So, you may ask, what is the point of a compilation for a more or less unknown artist? Well, a couple of his albums have been deleted and are no longer being sold and therefore some songs are now available only on this rather good overview of the artist’s career.
I have to admit that I read a review of this on the Dutch Progressive Rock Pages and the reviewer there was extremely critical. This got 2 out of 10, while the new album from Kaipa got something like 9. These two artists are hard to compare, but I would personally rather listen to N. R. Hills than Kaipa. The music this artist performs is more original and fresh. Even though the experimentation doesn't always work, there are plenty of times when it does work to make up for all the less interesting moments.
I now have a few albums that I like to put on when going to bed. This doesn't mean that they are boring, it is simply that they enhance the dreaming experience. I don't do this often, but it's nice to have a few albums to choose from. I began with Phaedra by Tangerine Dream, went on to No Pussyfooting by Fripp and Eno and now I also have N. R. Hills.