Hella - Tripper
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Record Label: Sargent House
Dear Zach Hill, what haven't you done in the past couple of years? You were on a phenomenal record with those Mars Volta dudes, you put out another solo album and you worked with this guy! Spencer Seim, I've missed your crazy-ass guitar work. Sure, Nick Reinhart held me over with his skills last year, but I'm curious what you got noodling around on that neck after four years. Though I couldn't find a hooker to do a line a blow off of (or had enough gas to drive out to do one off a dank bar toilet seat), Hella's new album is still a rush without the Lester Bangs theatrics. More importantly, it's a return to the band's core, stripped beginning.
One thing that first grabs me about Tripper is its accessibility. Now, I know that word could be scary for some of you math-fiends, but I mean that in a good way. "Long Hair" still contains the madness we all have come to love about Hella, its execution is just so tight and meticulous that it takes multiple listens for some of the tricks to get recognized. I love the way "Kid Life Chorus" shows glimpses of audible understanding wedged between Hella's signature time play and change-ups. And yes, the second thing is the lack of vocals - and that's a good thing. I couldn't even imagine trying to wind lyrics, let alone a vocal around the raceway of this album. The decision to not include a voice strips away an unnecessary layer in the best way possible.
After blasting off with "Headless" and starting circle pits filled with cartwheels and back flips on "Psycho Bro," Tripper is not without a few gloss-over moments. "Yubacore" and "Netgear" kind of blend together in one forgettable moment of digital delay back to back even after a couple of times through. Don't take that out of context of the talent the tracks display, but comparative to that of sidewinding closer of "Osaka" or the standout drum work on "Self Checkout," and it simply doesn't compete. Maybe better fit as b-sides? Possibly. Does it take away from the album's excellence? Not at all.
What's important to get out of Tripper is how these two guys who obviously started this thing as a jam so many years back have shown how they can continue to refine their talents. Again, just because I find the record to be the band's most accessible venture to date, doesn't mean it's a step backward in the least. It's just executed with so much precision that it shows the past few years of Hill and Seim getting their hands into other outlets has rubbed off into a fuller sounding spectrum when they got back together in a room and kicked it out like they did about a decade ago. Tripper sounds like Hill and Seim naturally hashed some tunes out - just with some better years of experience behind them to reflect back on.
I'm just getting into this band myself, but I must say, I've loved everything I've heard, and this review really makes me want to check out this album. I agree that accessibility is a good thing when it comes to Math-rock. The true math artists can synchronize their chaos enough to keep you from feeling overwhelmed. I like that you referred it to Untitled by Tera Melos, which is such a shining example of beautiful noise.