Release DetailsLABEL Suicide Squeeze Records
RELEASED ON 3/5/2005
Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard
posted on 3/2005 By:
Hella have always been a confounding band. Their brand of spazzy, erratic, attention-deficient noise rock defiantly pisses on musical convention and acceptable volume levels, sneering devilishly at the pretentious journo-types who struggle to unearth the words necessary to explain this cantankerous sonic mischief. Snidely obnoxious yet disarmingly genuine and endearingly tongue-in-cheek, Hella are a band to revere or detest, there is absolutely no middle ground. In an age where most music is haplessly pedestrian and impossibly average, sonic terrorism like Hella is certainly, certainly welcome, and this new double record is a vital affirmation of that fact. As the unhinged noise rock equivalent to Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, six string commando Spencer Seim and maniacal skin basher Zach Hill offer two individual solo efforts packaged under the group moniker, each fiercely individual, yet aesthetically similar.
Let’s get this out of the way- this isn’t a metal record, and I suggest that you relinquish any such expectations before giving this a listen. It is, however, just as dense as Neurosis, just as frenetic and claustrophobic as Dillinger Escape Plan, just as unpredictable and sporadic as Ephel Duath, so it’s appearance on this website is far from surprising. I would like to take this opportunity to show myopic single-minded metal purists to the door- my Morgoth review is just around that corner, I suggest you purchase that record instead (if, for whatever flabbergasting reason you do not already own their first three records). Those of you sick enough to remain will be rewarded with a double disc of infernal racket- the sound of musical convention being spat on, dragged through the streets and repeatedly bludgeoned with a sledgehammer…yet at the same time, arguably Hella’s most accomplished and catchy work to date.
Hill’s opening track “I’m Quitting The Cult: Movement 2” opens with all the sonic density of Cows and Swarm Of The Lotus, all nosebleed-inducing walls of outrageously distorted guitar noise and leadfooted, pulsating percussion, serving as the harsh base for a whirling, surfrock-sounding lead guitar before what sounds like a synthesizer is introduced, splicing the audial maelstrom with an innocuous, insistent melody. What results is the sound of Thurston Moore jamming with Dale Crover while Trans Am simultaneously play a separate song.
What is even more bizarre is the presence of actual SINGING on this record, something that up to this point has been absent in the power duo’s instrumental outings. It’s not that a vocalist is really needed on Hella’s deep-fried exploits, the apocalyptically violent din they raise is quite enough on its own, but the bloodstained shrieks that Hill litters on each track adds yet another diabolical edge to the already unnerving proceedings.
There is a DEFINITE improvisational/experimental aesthetic that fuels this entire record (obviously), and all fans of the burgeoning psychedelic/free folk genre advocated by Wire Magazine and Dusted Magazine would do well to give this amplified incarnate a spin. The juxtaposed carnival music and Lightning Bolt-esque guitar drum freakout of “Half Hour Handshake:Movement 3” has all the nefariousness of the Animal Collective with the nihilistic outrageousness of Godheadsilo, while the intensely listenable “Movement 4: Imaginary Friends” features an ultra nifty groove that recalls Oxbow a little bit, only to collapse into a mess of echo chamber vocals and a blaring, oppressive Vibracathedral Orchestra-ish collage of tape manipulation, blips and beeps. Meanwhile, Hill’s repetitious refrains and off-the-wall free drumming on “Wildlife Takes The Loser By Night: Movement 5” is like Sunburned Hand Of The Man on amphetamines- a scary, demonic incantation that wedges itself deep into your consciousness and propels you headfirst into the nebulous core of delirium.
Seim’s half of the album begins with a Ninja Gaiden-esque video game sample that dominates the mix while a toe-tapping guitar groove bubbles and froths in the background, muted and funneled through impenetrable sheaths of fuzz. The follow-up, “Gold Mine, Gold Yours” affirms with tuneful urgency that Seim is far more intent on exploring the mathier aspect of Hella than its putridly sinister noise rock underbelly. As such, Seim’s side is in some sense far less predictably Hella than Hill’s, aligned more with the instro-math sensibilities of bands like Battles, Don Caballero and The Fucking Champs. The drumming here is far less sporadic and brazenly chaotic as Hill’s offering, but the precision and progressive inventiveness of the playing is still absolutely remarkable, displaying a mixture of discipline and intensity that maybe recalls John Stanier (Battles/Helmet).
Elsewhere, “Song From Uncle” synthesizes a new age, electro-pop feel with a collage of flanged sounds and his rhythmic guitar playing, while “Try Dis…” displays distinctly pop sensibilities, bursting forth with driving rhythms and assertive classic-rock riffing, begging the Trans Am comparison further. Other songs provide the ideal yang to Hill’s murderous, tortured yin, the subdued, almost Tortoise-y nonchalance of “Famnail” taking an uncharacteristically contemplative route, while the pulsating percussion and swelling guitars of “Dad For Song” suggest a malevolent, balls-out Hella climax that never truly arrives. Album highlight “Mind Over Butter” grafts melodic synths over one another, all gliding weightlessly over syncopated, stop-start percussion, culminating in the breezy Queens of the Stone Age meets Oneida meets Death From Above 1979 greatness of “Home on the Arrange”.
While it is by no means timid or gentle, in many senses Seim’s side can be seen as the invariable comedown after Hill’s feverish hallucogenic excursion. It could be no other way- this is the flawless complement to Hill’s disturbed violence, and when digested post-Hill, Seim’s record gives the entire project a comprehensive, satisfying completeness. While neither of these records is truly, definitively Hella, as a cohesive whole they join to form an unmistakeable whole. It’s kinda like Voltron!
So there you have it. One serving of pure, Hellacious noise fury that would make the A-List on an All Tomorrow’s Parties or No Fun festival, one healthy chaser of instro-prog-synth-rock brilliance that will cream the pants of record clerks the world over, all brewed with a brilliance that can only be Hella. Bizarrely, even at its most unapproachable, the record remains darkly enjoyable and even, Satan forbid, poppy.
This is no Fantomas, Grand Ulena or (shudder) Orthrelm, there are SONGS here, HOOKS here, CONTINUITY beneath the grizzled, fuck-off exterior, it’s right there jeering you under all the white noise, absurd samples and tape manipulation. All it demands is that you LISTEN, attentively, actively (which means not putting it on while you do homework…try headphones!). Hill’s brilliant “Imaginary Friends: Movement 4” is pop music at its most hideous, like Deerhoof jamming with Wolf Eyes, and even at its noisiest, most bratty extreme, warrants multiple presses of the repeat button. Hell, buy this record for the monolithic closer, where Hill brings the Ninja Gaiden meets Trans Am theme back, makes it metamorphose into a naked, Manitoba-ish downtempo pastiche of electronic bliss, the mischievously has you listening to another 10 minutes of silence, desperate for some sort of refrain, a grindcore blast of fury, SOMETHING!
Such is the nature of Hella, the perpetual flouters of expectation, the eternal mad scientists of perturbing, discombobulating, FASCINATING rock music. When everything you’re listening to has become too sterile and you need a good kick in the ass, turn to these miscreants from Sacramento.
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