Hella Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard

[Suicide Squeeze; 2005]

Styles: math-rock, noise, experimental freakout, noise punk
Others: The Advantage, Upsilon Acrux, Yowie, Lightning Bolt, Oxes, Aqui

Smells like a motherfucking winner to me. Hella's third full-length, Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard, is hands-down the Sacremento duo's most poignant statement to date. Working within a style often marked by repetition and sameness, Hella has crawled into math rock's gaping asshole only to plant some dynamite in the fecal waste. KA-BOOM!!! Math rock? Noise rock? Noise punk?? Video-game-electronic-squinky-rock?!? Sheesh, makes me embarrassed to call myself a music critic. This music isn't easily pigeonholed, and let's please keep it that way (that means you, Lester Jr). Let's instead embrace its visceral aesthetic, its righteous paradigmatic shifts, its aimed floundering. The moment you try to pin this sucker down is the moment it gives you an atomic wedgie.

The first disc, Church Gone Wild, is written, performed, and recorded entirely by drummer phenom Zach Hill; while Chirpin Hard is written, performed, and recorded entirely by guitar phenom Spencer Seim. Reportedly, Hill and Seim recorded the albums without hearing even a snippet of the other's. Now that's trust. But this isn't some lame-o, tangential noodling; this double album is essential to Hella's discography. It captures not only their contrasting musical approaches, but also the bodily bursts shared by these experimental fudge-friends. It's sorta like analyzing the parts to better realize the whole; but the closer and closer you think you are to understanding the whole, you will notice a dynamite sticking out of your ass.

But let's ground this chatter. After all, the album wouldn't be so damn successful were it not for the music. Predictably, Hill's disc is a bit more abstract, relying on contrapuntal layerings that constantly twist around each other, forming an over-arching dynamic that's intelligently unrelenting. Did I really just type "intelligently unrelenting"? As the liner notes say, Church Gone Wild was written and intended to be enjoyed as one single composition, and it certainly plays that way. Seamless and over-the-top, Hill piles on the drums, electronics, manipulated samples, piano, cello, and much more. And guess what? There are vocals, and they fit perfectly. Seim's disc, on the other hand, is less chaotic and more along the lines of The CastleVania Dungeon. Showing his Advantage cards, Seim's music reflects the hyper-video game sensibility of The Advantage, while still keeping the rigidity in check with blasts of melodic maelstrom and twisted harmonies. Though not exactly accessible, this lighthearted disc will give you that melodic reward that the first disc made you beg for.

Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard may not be exactly groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it's the kind of idiosyncratic release that reminds experimentalism to laugh when something's funny. We can all have fun together, and those of you who've seen Hella live know what I'm getting at. Let this embrace be joyful, and let's not smother. Hella is at a point in their career where their fans are simply going to get musical orgasms at the announcement of a new album (they recently signed a one-album deal with Ipecac, by the way). I, for one, am glad that they didn't release another typical Hella album. In all honesty, their previous albums never did all that much for me, but one listen to "Earth's First Evening Jimi Hendrix-Less And Pissed" and I'm just about ready to sign my ass away.

Church Gone Wild:
1. Movement 1: Leaving The Arena Of Anthropology
2. Movement 2: I'm Quitting The Cult
3. Movement 3: Half Hour Handshake
4. Movement 4: Imaginary Friends
5. Movement 5: Wildlife Takes The Loser By Night
6. Movement 6: Black Metal Blues/Black Mold
7. Movement 7: Nixed
8. Movement 8: Earth's First Evening Jimi Hendrix-Less And Pissed
9. Movement 9: Wish I Never Saw A White Man
10. Movement 10: Baby In A Coma/Child Of No Calendar
11. Movement 11: Bodyguards Harmonic
12. Movement 12: We Was Just Boys, Living In A Dead Ass German Shepard
Chirpin Hand:

1. Gold Mine, Gold Yours
2. Song For Uncle
3. W
4. Try Dis...
5. Drop Diva
6. Famnail
7. Dad For Song
8. Mind Over Butter
9. Home On The Arrange
10. Trap Kit Whatever
11. Proud Of The Sun
12. Chirpin Hand