Artist: The Howling Hex
EP: Wilson Semiconductors
Label: Drag City
The new four track EP from Neil Michael Hagerty’s The Howling Hex is another experimental, rambling rock project. Best known for his part in American rock band Royal Trux, he started The Howling Hex after their demise in 2001 and has since worked on nine albums under the Hex pseudonym. Band members and sound has fluctuated meaning that the only constant is his presence as front-man.
Opener Reception, sets the mood with an electric guitar solo and a limited amount lyrics; “reception, it can take a long time, take a long, take a long, take a long time” which he repeats to close. Brunette Roulette, has the most flowing guitar melodies to begin with, however they soon give way to erratic sounds and muddled chords. There’s a psych influence but also a old school country-rock vibe. Listen to this when you know what you’re already going to do with your day, otherwise you could find yourself feeling a little lost. Inspired maybe, but definitely lost.
Play This When You Feel Low starts with some high pitched noodling, two minutes in and the vocals finally appear and Hagerty tells listeners to “play this when you feel alone”, it sounds like he’s drawing on his own experiences; “silence at the end of a landline, stranded on the ground”. He even
sings that is “one for the ugly people”. A Game of Dice is the longest track on the EP and the fastest moving one too, one guitar note strummed on and on backs the tune like drums. In fact, the whole EP is without drums – percussion is the substitute as it was with his use of the organ in their 2008 release Earth Junk. Vocals don’t come in until three minutes for A Game of Dice, and Hagerty takes a higher pitch. Like a counterpart, a minute later he sings in a lower voice – answering to his first set of words.
The songs on Wilson Semiconductors range from six to ten minutes long and are filled with lengthy, dithering guitar solos. Like some late 1960s psych the tunes have a hazy sound and the melody fluctuates randomly; one minute the notes are up high and the next, down low. Sometimes he uses electronic sounding
bleeps, but his instrument of choice is without a doubt the guitar. Hagerty’s strained vocals are rare but inspiring and the whole thing lacks direction, but certainly not creativity.
Reviewed by Heather Welsh.