Black Hill is the side project of a guitarist from Hungary who simply goes by the initial I.S.S. His main project, musicformessier is self-described as “acoustic space art”. The music, along with the graphic motifs, are both cosmic and otherworldly befitting the sci-fi post rock vibe he produces under that alias. By contrast, The Black Hill project is a far more pastoral affair. It is warmer, earthier, more subdued, and so very easy on the ear. Black Hill debuted with a split album last November shared with fellow Hungarian artist Eensdekend and it has now been followed up by collaborative effort with British ambient musician Cousin Silas called Bridges of the South.
The format of the record is a thrice repeating pattern comprised of a pair of Black Hill tracks followed by one from Cousin Silas at the conclusion of which is a single bonus track the two created together. Black Hill speaks in rich, arpeggiated guitars that overlap, intertwine, and harmonize among delightful melodic phrases. Especially beautiful are the tracks which reference the album title – ‘South’ and ‘Bridges’ as well as the cascading guitar lines of ‘River Crossing’ and ‘Flood’.
The pieces from Cousin Silas are much more atmospheric, as if creating a troposphere to surround the earthier textures and more vivid hues of his collaborator. A hint of melancholy and deep introspection inhabits ‘Marble and Ivy’, ‘Unspoken’ and ‘View from a Stationary Train’ – each punctuated by well placed bits of piano and treated guitars. This subtle point/counterpoint approach works a treat and the album flows beautifully. Finally, the two sounds merge seamlessly in ‘Sand of the South’ which reprises the melody of the opening track to close out the proceedings.
The cover art for Bridges of the South is especially handsome and goes a long way to creating the right mood and frame of mind for the listener before even the first note plays. It was rendered by Ferenc Kapiller, who also records music himself under the name Release the Long Ships. The album is available as a digital download which, at this writing, is generously offered on a pay-what-you-want basis. This is an exceptionally enjoyable recording that deserves to be heard and supported and more of the same would be very welcome.
Featured track: ‘Sand of the South’