Sat Dec 1
Before I'd ever heard their music, Sacramento's Hella was described to me as the band whose drummer "makes the drummer from Lightning Bolt look like a pussy."
Now, if you've seen or heard the band Lightning Bolt, you know that their drummer has infinite endurance, and plays the most absurd and awe-inducing, spastic time signatures in the world. How could anyone possibly be more insane than the dude from Lightning Bolt?
But, after hearing Hella's self-released demo recordings, I now believe that Hella is the greatest melodic spazzcore duo in the entire world. Through Zach Hill's heavy guitar composition--which is so intricate it sounds like six people playing it instead of one--and the aforementioned enduring, well-versed-in-the-double-bass drummer Spencer Seim, Hella plays instrumental music in Lightning Bolt's realm of persistent, hard-hitting cacophony. However, rather than relying on bravado and showy technical skills, or banking on the fact that the audience is going to be blown away to the point of exhaustion, Hella possesses an element previously unheard of: prettiness. Hella writes some gorgeous melodies, successfully introducing emotion to a genre whose primary likable characteristics include its intentional coldness and eschewing of humanness.
At first, Hella is deceiving--they sound much heavier than they actually are--because they play so quickly, Hill's guitar parts change so suddenly, and because Seim's constant use of the double-bass pedal on his kick drum is something normally associated with hardcore.
But, after many listens, it becomes apparent that Hella writes music that is actually sort of arty. The drums are used as melodic instruments, instead of rhythmic ones. In a way, they act in the same way as a second guitar or bass would, bringing separate tones and notes to the music. In certain songs, the guitar almost completely cuts out so the drums can have an extended solo, but it never sounds empty or even wanky. No, no; it just sounds like the greatest melodic spazzcore duo in the world.
Hella's new record is released in early 2002 on 5 Rue Christine, but you should see them play this Friday at Meow Meow with Shemo, Callisto, and Sextional: a new band starring Emily from the Haggard, Tami from Tami Hart Complex, and Nicki from Rotophone.