Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based guitarist and producer Dave Hillis recently released his debut album, Skylines, an 11-track collection of IDM/electronic music full of swirling colours, psychedelic textures, lingering vocals, visceral ambience, and glitchy tones.
A multi-platinum producer, engineer, and recording artist, Dave Hillis has worked with bands like Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Afghan Whigs, along with a who’s who of other artists, including his first thrash band MACE.
Yet despite his heavy rock affiliations, Dave has always been fascinated with samplers, dating back to high school. While waiting for his guitar teacher, he would play around with a Roland sampler, he eventually bought.
He explains, “It is a departure from the guitar-based rock music I usually produce, but it is another side of my creative personality. It’s very liberating to work with no rules. You have to find different ways to express emotions, abstract ideas, and messages. It’s a challenging way to be creative.”
Later, while signed to Island Records, he got his hands on an advance copy of music by Tricky, loaded with the type of music he longed to make. This led to Dave experimenting with sampling and synths, presaging the aesthetics of Skylines.
The album begins with “Flowers,” opening on dark, gritty textures topped by Dave’s lysergic-filled voice, giving the lyrics dreamy washes. Entry points include the brawny, glitching, industrial dance layers of “Sunglasses,” with hints of fusion hip-hop.
“Boulevard of Allies” travels on graceful, elegant strings gliding on luminous colouration, imbuing the tune with orchestral essence. The title track rolls out on oscillating, intertwining sounds, at once hallucinogenic and imminent.
“In the Light, We Rise” blends heavy, rumbling percussion with surging dance energy as distant echoes of voices give the tune techno-wizard inflexions. “Red Black and Blue rides a Jovian trap-like rhythm, crowned by luminous swirls of synths and a dazzling female voice flavoured with R&B/soul timbres.
Heaving with dark, heavy urban pop tangs, “Carrick” thrums with portentous dynamics and then descends to eerie throbbing levels rippling with supernatural sonic emanations, as if traversing a vast, shadowy tunnel leading to another dimension.
The final track, “Idoru,” merges electro-dance piquancy with the cogency of fusion jazz, resulting in galvanizing strata of colouration and pulsations.
Jam-packed with mesmerizing soundscapes, muscular rhythms, and intoxicating droning, purring, and buzzing glazes, Skylines spans the spectrum from the polished elegance of “Boulevard of Allies” to the dangerous edginess of “Carrick.”