Hella: Church Gone Wild/ Chirpin Hard
Sacramento, Calif.’s Hella has always had a polarizing conduit going, its experimental, instrumental Tourette’s bridging prog-punk and no wave, spazzcore and math metal. Now the duo wholly divides itself with its fourth (and fifth?) album(s), Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard, a two-CD set with one each from drummer Zach Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim, respectively. And with it Hella unfetters its decadent tendencies to the nth degree.
What’s impressive about Hella, as on 2004’s The Devil Isn’t Red, is that Hill and Seim can sound like they’re playing separate songs, yet even when the skronking guitar and antagonistic drums spar, they’re agreeing to meet up for some rough trade. Something about how the two musicians temper each other keeps the compositions from being unreasonable.
On Church, it sounds like Hill recorded two (or more) separate songs and then simply overlaid them. This musique concrète—intended as a single hourlong opus presented in 12 movements—is punishing, repeated blows to the kidneys. The more metronomic Chirpin dapples eight-bit Casio melodies about a swath-carving gale of epileptic guitar, like dotting little level ups in a speedily blipping game of zip-zag. Chirpin offers something immediately rewarding unlike Church, which has to be swallowed repeatedly before it sinks in.
What’s lost on Church/Chirpin is the single-sightedness Hill and Seim managed even when at their most convoluted on their collaborative albums. It points to Hella’s dynamic range and rage, but it proves the group is most effective when taking to the three-legged race than when competing against each other.