Hilltop Distillery – …Died in the Woods

Hilltop Distillery
…Died in the Woods

In two liner-note phrases of its …Died in the Woods release, Hilltop Distillery provides us with this manifesto: “To gain personal and academic power we need to be able to write. This sample is meant only to clarify the concept.”
If liner notes were CD operating instructions, the ones written for this CD are not very helpful. In my experience, if you don’t get the liner notes, you’re probably not going to get the album. I’m assuming they need to write music to gain personal and academic power, but what are these powers? Is it confidence? Craft? What are they talking about? And the “sample,” (I’m assuming by this they mean the CD), is meant to clarify what concept? The concept of writing to gain academic power? Whatever.
Just by the band’s name, you might assume that Hilltop Distillery, a trio from Kentucky, would favor country and bluegrass music. The liner notes, on the other hand, suggest something different, more difficult to listen to. As soon as the disc starts spinning, it’s obvious that there will be absolutely nothing on this remotely related to Bill Monroe. Nope, this is pure experimental music bouncing frenetically between jazz and progressive rock.
So here’s the skinny: …Died in the Woods is an improvisational work composed of nine distinct compositions. In each composition, the trio jams within whatever musical theme gets picked. With bent notes, chugging riffs, and curious rhythms, the musicians combine, albeit cleverly, merely to create musical introductions that range from two to 10 minutes in length.
If you require melody, or at least the promise of melody, this disc will not be a good fit for your collection. Each track here is nothing more than a sound “piece” that only adds to a crowded museum filled with “artsy” experimental music. For devoted experimental music enthusiasts, I can’t say whether or not Hilltop Distillery adds anything new to the art form. But for the rest of us casually curious, …Died in the Woods is just a monotonous puzzle.