To the people out there who bemoan the state and staleness of music, those who cry out: “there’s nothing new; everything just sounds the same!” To those who crave some new experience musically, I have two words for you:
This math rock duo from Sacramento is showing the California capitol is home to more than just a poorly owned basketball team. With Spencer Seim on guitars and Zach Hill on drums, the pair creates an onslaught of cacophonous sound that can be as overstimulating as a star exploding in their fifth LP, Tripper. Hill’s pugnacious and furious drumming style, complete with staccato snare beats and off-tempo fills coincide with Seim’s distorted and high-pitched guitar thrashing to create a sound like a live band stuck in a constant interstitial jam session.
As easy as it would be to chalk their sound up to “pure noise,” I invite those who would say such things to listen closer and will use a math analogy to explain math rock (yay, nerds). Fractals, those fun geometrical shapes which plastered all over the wall in my high school math classrooms, have several distinct features:
1. There are very fine details when you look at them close up.
2. They are too irregular to be easily described in traditional Euclidean geometric language.
3. They are self-similar (small pieces tend to be a small representation of the larger piece).
4. They have a simple and repeated definition.
5. Or just look at the picture below
Now that I’ve lost everyone, I’ll simplify it more. If you look at a small piece of a fractal or its geometric equation, it doesn’t make sense. The math doesn’t add up. If you listen to Hella, you are not going to hear traditional 4:4 rhythm or tight music. There is no bass guitar, there are no vocals. Everything is instrumental; it is played loose, yet aggressively. After a while, the sounds blend together.
Now, widen your scope. Hill is not keeping a tight beat, but he is not simply a rhythm section. He is fifty percent of the band and his instrument is as powerful a voice as the guitar. The quick fills and cymbal crashes are telling their part of the story. Seim matches speed and determination in his guitar playing and creates hooky licks in the openers “Headless” and “Self Checkout” that bounce around my head as I start my day. The pair also has moments where they tighten up and crank out fun rock riffs in “Netgear” and “Psycho Bro.”
From the first time I listened to Hella, I never thought I was listening to pure noise. I felt the intricate equations laid out in their math rock. For someone searching out a truly unique sound, I can say I found it with this album. Check out the fractal sound of Tripper when it comes out on August 30th on Sargent House Records.
And don’t forget your graphing calculator.