Hella’s 2011 release, ‘Tripper’, is definitely not for the faint of heart. This two-piece, comprised of drummer Zach Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim, makes the kind of complex, difficult-to-categorize music that pretty much every other rock duo would kill to make (I am looking at you, Black Stripes or White Keys or Stripe Keys or whatever). Well, maybe not so much, because Hella pretty much eschew any hint of pop sensibilities in favor of volume, vigor and virtuosity. I am trademarking that!
‘Tripper’ is a relentless and blistering listen, and at times, in spite of loving every minute of it, I have to turn it off in favor of less, shall we say, stimulating, music. You see, I listen to most music when I am working, and with Hella and ‘Tripper’, your mind has to be on the music and IN the music to really get it. There is a reason that my mom called music like this noise! I would tend to classify this particular album as more Math-y than Noise-y, since there is a definite method to the madness on these songs.
For those of you ‘in the know’ so to speak, you have seen and heard Zach’s drumming in conjunction with some huge names in the world of post-rock and post-hardcore; That one guy from The Mars Volta? Yeah, Omar Rodríguez-López, Hill has played with him. Really, all you have to do is have a listen to any song on which Hill is allowed to go full-on, no holds barred on his drum set. It’s instant and crystal clear that this fellow is that type of drummer – A breed apart.
I know less about Seim, but one notable fact is that he is also a drummer (with a band that makes Nintendo music covers, of all things!), in addition to being a guitar God-igy (see what I did there? God and Prodigy?). If I had to classify Seim’s guitar work, I would say it leans toward the experimental, but really he seems to be extremely versatile stylistically.
Highlights for me on ‘Tripper’ are the opener, ‘Headless’, with its mile-a-minute frenetic beat and frequent time changes, and the second to last track, ‘Psycho Bro’. On all tracks on this record, it’s really hard to believe that there are only two people playing and making such a huge sound. ‘Psycho Bro’ stands out for me because the guitar takes center stage a bit more on it. Plus, it’s just fun. Another fav of mine, the cryptically named ‘Netgear’, has a great hooky refrain coupled with drum rolls and scrolls that I would not think possible.
I do not believe that there is a single song on this album that is not worthy of a listen or ten. I have had this album in my rotation since it came out in late summer of 2011. It has taken me that long just to ‘digest’ it! I kid, but it may not be one that instantly becomes a favorite. Give it time, let it sink in; It’s like that math problem you have to ‘sleep on’: It might elude you at first, but it is so satisfying once you figure it out.