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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

G. W. Hill

Déjà Vu

Review by Larry Toering

I'm rather new to the music of G. W. (aka Gary) Hill, so when it came down to reviewing his work I was a bit reluctant because of a lack of knowing what the concepts of the content are all about, and just how to grasp and embrace them without that element going into it. What I found was a much more comprehensive art in his music than I thought might be the case. The majority of this was done on basic equipment in the 80s, recorded on cassette tapes and then later, of course transferred to digital format. This is a compilation entitled “Déjà Vu” and includes a title track as a newer creation,, so it does contain newer material. In addition, it contains an instrumental version of the recently released digital single “The Music of Erich Zann.” There’s a review of that original version elsewhere at MSJ.  In addition you can find reviews of the rest of hHill’s albums and an interview at the site.  The music can be not only described as “abstract,” but very artistically spooky and rather interesting with its primitive but intelligent charm that translates well from the 80s to the current musical landscape one way or another. It's all very compelling and captivating to a degree I never expected when I finally had a chance to enjoy it, after reading about it. This collection of tunes are both uplifting and brooding at the same time, as well as artistically easy to appreciate.

(Editor’s Note: This G.W. Hill is the same Gary Hill who publishes Music Street Journal – and therefore is editing this review. I have edited for grammar and layout, but not for content at all. I asked for and received an unbiased review. And you can buy this disc at

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
This is a cool little synth piece off the Excursions release that sounds somewhere between “Close Encounters” and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” It was originally released as an opener so it belongs in the lead off spot on this compilation.
Black Hole (Visit to a Weird Place)
This is an absolutely wicked bass solo with some very creepy parts, hence the title, as Hill takes the ears through the darkest corners of space with unique feedback and swipe effects that have an overall soundscape appeal.
Earth Crisis Impression 1 (Earth)
This is another synth piece coming from Earth Part 1 with some organ piano as well, sounding like “Earth” itself, but more spacy. The homegrown sound only adds to the charm of this hypnotic tune.
The Music of Erich Zann (instrumental version)
This is an H.P. Lovecraft based track which (with some spoken vocals) has also been released as a digital single. It's very dark and mysterious, as well as strained and authentically rough, with Hill getting to the nearest common denominator, that being Lovecraft. And the result is another soundscape effect that comes off spooky and precisely delivered.

Another track from Excursions )which is actually sub-titled “A Sound Painting”), one gets that impression by the whole thing, and it sounds the same surrounded by these other tracks, like a sound painting indeed. It's once again very mysterious, almost like a missile cruise or a space ship flight.

Percussive Attack
Coming from Missile Hay Knee Us, this is quite a nifty little number here with a clever percussive keyboard effect that would fool anyone for the drums.
Originally on Excursions, this is a quick piece apparently played on a ukelele with one string missing. That’s so cool, because, once again you'd never know.
Message Home
So far this is the spaciest sounding track and it's like cowbell, you can never get enough of it when it comes to Hill's music. This track, also from Excursions, is very cool.
Saturn’s Rings
Another originally released on Excursions, speaking of “spacey,” here comes plenty more of that. This time, though we get a very Pink Floyd sort of Moog vibe, and it's awesome!
Warped Space
This is a very soothing piece, although still very spacey, just not as wild. It’s a totally relaxing track with more of that hypnotic feel. The number was originally released on Missile Hay Knee Us.
Earth Crisis Impression 3
A song from Earth Part 1, here there is a more or less same vibe but quite a bit darker and moodier than the previous number, and definitely stranger sounding.
This is the first track by Hill I ever heard, and it still has that great impression every time I hear it. It has that soothing quality again with a very healing result. Psychedelic but modern synth effects are featured, and once again this is very spacey in an “oh so good” way. It is another piece from Excursions.
Hell’s Bells
This is a series of cleverly timed bell sound effects that have the feeling of traveling by an old small steel town at dawn, or a ghost town even. It’s much like that of the few atmospheric sounds to be found on the first Black Sabbath album, or something to that effect. It comes from Missile Hay Knee Us.
Déjà Vu
This is ultra spooky indeed, with a very creepy feel to it. Another soundscape passage that is done with the soothing effect, but this one is as dark as space itself, like coming out of some kind of nightmare in space.
Coming from Missile Hay Knee Us, this is the only track with vocals, and it contains guitar as well. Not being completely sure what it's about, I can tell it is a heartfelt piece that is worth repeated listens. Of course, that’s true of the rest of the tracks on offer. I think this is one of many standouts.
Visit to a Weird Place Revisited
This is a very spooky piece that comes from and follows on the concept on Excursions and the equally spooky track “Black Hole...,” and some others included on this well put together compilation of Hill's music.
Magnetic Storm
This is an interesting piece that can be compared by now to that of “Sounds Of Titan” by Cassini-Huygens. I hear what is yet another fascinating abstract piece in this, which all of the Excursions tracks are, like sound paintings. In fact I'm most familiar with the material from that release than the rest of Hill's work, so it's easier for this writer to identify with those in order to describe them.
It has been mentioned in a review at MSJ of this track that it is reminiscent of Disney's “Space Mountian” in the 70s and 80s. Well, I was actually at the grand opening day of that ride in 1976, and I can say this is 100% true, as I recollect a similar drone throughout the ride, strangely enough. Being that this is all 80s created, it might just be a coincidence that anyone interested in space at the time could liken it to obstacles such as the aforementioned ride and other sources of environmental influence from which to draw. But then again it could all just be coincidence and Hill's might  be in a totally different place. But this does reflect space “Exploration” nevertheless. This is another cut from Excursions
Another track from the very abstract Excursions, this is perhaps a brighter painted picture at the time than some of the others, with its very high pitch keys. The result is the usual spacey and very artistic soundscape. 
Earth Crisis Impression 22
This is a suspenseful track that resembles an arrival on a foreign planet, as played out on the 'Earth Part 2 release. To get a better understanding one can refer to the review here at MSJ by Scott Montgomery who has a finger on the entire pulse of Earth Part 2, as can be seen in his comprehensively illustrated text review. This being music of the prog persuasion, I recommend reading his review of said release.
Mission Report
This is another wildly abstract piece I love. It’s much like that of a conclusion of several other sounds found on Excursions to read like that of a “Mission Report.”' The track “Hyperdive” would resemble it best, onlyy this has even more soothing and actually a more quiet vibe to what is basically otherwise the same electronic approach. Here is has more atmosphere and actual realistic sounds.
Visit Revisited (98 Edit)
This is an edit, an upgraded version that comes on much stronger indeed, as a result. I think it's much spookier and I can understand why an edit would be included here, to get the improved effect across.
Home Again
Coming from Excursions, this finds itself revisiting the first track “Earth,” but extends it by four times the distance and the point is well taken. All in all this compilation serves its purpose and plays like an album all its own, and that is a testament of the project which proves its significance in the Hill catalog.
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