Album cover Tripper - Hella
TripperHella8/10

Hella - Tripper

28 Aug 2011 macron1

2011 so far seems to have been a good year for math/post-rock/instrumental/experimental/noise rock type music, what with a new album from Battles (Gloss Drop 7.5/10), solid débuts from Alright the Captain (SNIB 7.0/10) and Boogie Monster (Zechimechi 7.9/10), interesting stuff coming out of Northern Ireland from And So I Watch You From Afar, a new live collection for Nisennenmondai, the threat of new material from GIRAFFES? GIRAFFES! (What's the go there anyway? That Kickstarter was funded months ago!), various collaborations including Lightning Bolt etc. etc. etc.+++++. But the release of the new album Tripper from veterans Hella must be considered perhaps the most momentous of all events in this field this year, and is perhaps the most momentous occasion since at least January 30, 2007.

To begin with, we have a bit of boring history for the uninitiated. In 2007, after several mildly successful years and numerous albums and EPs produced as an instrumental guitar/drum duo, Hella became a 5 piece with the addition of a vocalist(!), an extra guitarist, a bassist, and even a cello in there at some point. With this line up, "Hella" released There's No 666 in Outer Space, and then promptly stopped releasing music. Why or how this turn of events ever happened will forever be debated by Hella purists/bearded weirdos/random dudes on last.fm, as will whether or not they were trying to sound like Mars Volta on this album on purpose or not, and whether or not this album "ruined" the band or not (from what can be gathered here, in some ways it did). Either way, it has been waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, way too long between albums from Hella if they were still functioning as an entity, and in 2009 happily the announcement of new material was preceded with the news that Hella were, to quote, officially back to being a duo! We will ignore for a minute the fact that the same message also stated the album would be recorded and finished this year of 2009...

What is interesting about Hella is that while it has been a long time between outings for the Zach Hill/Spencer Seim combination, it is not like there has been nothing from either of these talented musicians in the mean time, what with Hill staying busy with numerous solo albums and collaborations with the likes of Nick Reinhart (bygones-) and Marnie Stern, as well appearing as part of El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Team Sleep and The Ladies, AS WELL AS appearing as part of intense experimental terror-core rap group Death Grips - check out Full-Moon (Death Classic), it is a terrifying masterpiece. Seim has been comparability quiet but still rather prolific, appearing as part of Nintendo cover band The Advantage and releasing excellent solo material as sBACH, modestly proclaimed by Seim himself as a thousand times better than Hella or The Advantage.

The first track off Tripper is "Headless", and it is vintage Hella. The basic structure composes of a building type riff showcasing Hill's ludicrous tambourine skills, which is perfectly punctuated every now and again by an almost hilariously cheerful hippie axe riffage from Seim that brings it all together, or something. The main thing that "Headless" is thee perfect way to kick off a new album from Hella - the track is reminiscent of their earlier (i.e. pre-5 piece) material and brings to mind the likes of "City Folk Sitting Sitting" from their 2002 début Hold Your Horse Is. Basically "Headless" is traditional shit, precisely what we have been waiting for.

Likewise, the track "Furtherst" with its weird reversed sounding interlude midway through also stirs up memories of early Hella material. This is not to say that Hella has remained stationary or indeed regressed in their sound - gone are the 10-12 minute opuses of yore - the 5 minutes and 36 seconds of "Netgear" is as epic as it gets (in terms of song duration) on Tripper. This is not at all a bad thing, and may have something to do with the fact that all the tracks were recorded on the day they were written, which is itself rather astounding considering some of the technical complexity on show on Tripper.

Elsewhere, "Psycho Bro" is a bit frantic and electric and a bit faux flamenco sounding in places. "Osaka" evokes imagery of one dude playing 10,000 riffs on his guitar while the other guy interprets the cacophony on the drums AT THE SAME TIME while they are in Osaka or something, I dunno. The distorted futuristic vampire organ music intro on "Kid Life Crisis" lurches into a barrage of face-melting drumming that plays out behind guitar befitting some kind of Micro-Machine factory documentary you might have seen in the 1970s. Meanwhile "Yubacore" is pretty much unlike anything Hella have done before in terms of its more gentle pace and general fuggyness, but at the same time is familiar for some reason.

The whole album is a bit like that, a little bit familiar but a bit not. The fact that Tripper has been such a long time coming and that things got so wild and crazy in 2007 with 5 dudes in the band and no one knew what was going on, followed by lots of nothing for ages, this album kind of has a lot of excess baggage with the expectations of a bunch of bearded shut-ins riding on it. Frankly it feels weird listening to new Hella material in 2011. Once the initial excitement dies down, and after what could almost be considered a mild sense of disappointment (that you have had to wait so long for this and all that could have been if things had turned out differently) has passed, only then, THEN you have something that is much unlike anything any other band has been able to replicate successfully in the decade or so since Hold Your Horse Is. Tripper is an intense listen of mind-bending technical skill and imagination which will serve the secondary function of acting as a gateway drug for the Hella back-catalogue for the uninitiated. Pick up Tripper over at the Hella bandcamp, they dropped the album earlier due to scum leakers so send the dudes 7 dollars or so for their troubles :)

Sardless Tracks

  • Headless
  • Long Hair
  • Psycho Bro
  • Osaka

Track Listing

  1. Headless
  2. Self Checkout
  3. Long Hair
  4. Yubacore
  5. Netgear
  6. Kid Life Crisis
  7. On The Record
  8. Furthest
  9. Psycho Bro
  10. Osaka