Album Review: Huachuca Aerostat – ‘Whipper & Hornet’

Posted: by The Editor

Highly conceptual at points, but not necessarily a concept album, Huachuca Aerostat’s Whipper & Hornet examines the disillusioned feelings that come with getting the adult life you imagined as a kid, only to find the same unhappiness and longing for something or somewhere else still hanging over you. The one-person-band based in Nashville cites science-fiction and post-apocalyptic films an inspiration for these tunes—a fact that seems present even in the instrumental choices, with futuristic synths floating next to guitars that sound robotic at times and explosive at others. 

Whipper & Hornet starts deceptively slow with arpeggios from a steely guitar on “More Than A Machine” before the tune flips, blasting up into the outer space and digital settings that spiral together with mundane, real-life landmarks and images over the course of the record. Sonically, like most of the tunes here, “More Than A Machine” is absolutely packed. There is so much going on here, but somehow nothing is in the way of anything else, and Huachuca Aerostat knows how to draw your focus when needed, making room for the lines “will I ever be / more than a machine / do androids really dream / of electric sheep,” even as the guitars underneath are no less active. The straightforward, nostalgic “Rainbow Jacket” is only slightly less crowded instrumentally, with lead guitar lines blaring through the mix in contrast to the grimier guitars underneath. The verse lyrics hit on the loss of a carefree youth of “gettin’ drunk with my friends / every Saturday night,” while the chorus of “at the end of the day / even though I’m wasting away / I’m alive” walks the line between hope and despair. 

“Endless Vacation” is the fist of two tracks directly inspired by movies (in this case, Mad Max, as Huachuca Aerostat ultimately decides to load their f-150 “with kegs of kerosene / non-perishable items, medical supplies, and guns and knives and water filters, farmers almanacs,” in hopes of being the king “when the world collapses”). Musically, the tune is infectious, taking the swagger present on “Rainbow Jacket” and adding a bit of a derangement that matches perfectly with lines like “so shoplift if you want to / you probably won’t get caught / they probably don’t care anyways / they already forgot.” Incredibly, Huachuca Aerostat doesn’t slow things down yet, and instead ramps up the energy even more with “Infinity Bike,” a song directly hitting the central revelation of the record that your adult life isn’t as great as you imagined as a kid. It could be due to its simplicity, but the chorus of “and I / just wanna ride my bike / for the rest of my life / do tricks and wheelies / forget all these forlorn feelings / why for once in my whole life / can’t something just go right” is one of the more immediate on the record.

Described by Huachuca Aerostat as the “most personal track” on the album “Man Of Steel” marks a bit of a turning point and works as a stunning centerpiece for Whipper & Hornet. While synths are strewn all over these songs, they’re most prominently featured on “Man Of Steel,” kicking things off with an cascading pattern that subtly blossoms as the track goes on. The superhero metaphors are eventually joined by a killer guitar solo that transports the tune into a space age breakdown with distorted vocals. It’s arguably one of the best songs here—as naturally danceable as it is weird and challenging.

After a moment to breathe, “Helium-3” kicks off the record’s second half with the focus staying on the synths. Inspired by the film Moon, it’s one of the slower tunes on the record, along with the lonesome sunny acoustic track “It’s Never Really Over” and closer “Shibuya.” The tune’s sci-fi inspiration is apparent in the lyrics of “no one has to know / I’m not coming home / a copy of a clone / LEDs and chrome,” as well as the contrast of shimmering synths laying the foundation with the bright laser beam synths providing the cutting lead lines.

Reflective of the overall ambition of the record, closer “Shibuya” stretches past six minutes, telling the story of a “nameless Japanese salaryman caught in a culture of endless work.” By far the slowest tempo on the record, the track also begins as the least crowded sonically, the palm mutes and subtle synths creating an environment reminiscent of the smoky neon-lit streets of Blade Runner. It almost feels like a separate entity from the rest of Whipper & Hornet, an epilogue tacked on to let dust from the record settle.

Whipper & Hornet is an incredible debut for this project, and what probably makes it most impressive is how well the kitchen sink of ideas works here. It’s easy to imagine a record like this getting bogged down by the sheer number of instrumental tracks that went into it, but Huachuca Aerostat never lets things get overcrowded, knowing when to trade out different sounds to draw your ear to the particular place where it needs to be for that moment. Like the best records that demand multiple listens and careful attention, Whipper & Hornet delivers on that commitment with seemingly endless nuggets to reveal.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Aaron Eisenreich | @slobboyreject

The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.