Though they’ve performed with a number of different lineup combinations, Hella has always been drummer Zach Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim at the core. Though a fairly conventionally sounding core, Hill and Seim are not your conventional guitar/drums duo. Rather than merely keeping time, Hill’s diverse styles range from the clattering lurches he showed guest improvising on Joan of Arc’s last disc, Oh Brother, to the insane punk mashing he displayed for his brief tenure backing Nathan Williams on Wavves. Seim’s inventive, gleefully insane shredding can similarly be seen elsewhere, notably in his solo work as sBACH and drumming with Nintendo cover band The Advantage.
Tripper, though, finds the Sacramento duo ditching their three other band members and returning to their noise rock roots, spazzing out together until they find something that fits. That willingness to hit the wrong notes in order to find interesting new combinations, to experiment with patterns and rhythm shines through most on the disc. Which is to say, those looking for easy hooks need look elsewhere. Like their “weirdo drum and guitar” brethren Lightning Bolt, there’s something inherently confrontational about Tripper, though where those Providence dudes get metal, Hella delve into something proto-free jazz, skipping from time signature to time signature, leaving clusters of sound in their wake.
On opener “Headless”, a seemingly formless mess of rumbling sound wrenches itself into a riffy, technically impressive interlocking groove. The cleverly titled “Self Checkout” is aptly indulgent, as well as recklessly self-run, Seim’s chords swelling and crashing like insane metallic waves as Hill’s unstoppable kit-clashing propels the thing forward. Later, the similarly pun-y “Kid Life Crisis” features a groovy, Black Dice-reminiscent electronic percussion loop at its opening, though it unfortunately dashes it abruptly before returning to more of the same. While it’s apparent that Hill and Seim are insanely talented musicians willing to try anything, they seem to return too often to a running standard. There are enough flashes of brilliance on Tripper to make it a great album, but unfortunately enough little moments like that electronic groove on “Kid Life Crisis” to show that there’s plenty more for them to reach for.
Essential Tracks: “Headless”, “Psycho Bro”