One of the most highly respected groups in its domain, Hella has shown an enormous amount of creative output in the last three years. All of the group’s releases, from the mind-boggling arrangements of 2002’s Hold Your Horse Is (an album of brilliant guitar work that still has me scouring tablature to comprehend it) to the eight releases leading up to March’s Church Gone Wild/Chirpin’ Hard, have documented the evolution of Zach Hill and Spencer Seim’s musical relationship. Their latest release, Homeboy/Concentration Face, is the most complete Hella release yet, demonstrating the textured reach of the Sacramento, California, group’s new sound as a four-piece without ignoring the intricacies of their older material.
The Homeboy EP sputters with breakneck dynamics and demolishing interplay. Blasting through the material in a dense twenty-nine minutes, the EP demonstrates the new ensemble’s aural thickness. Opener “Gothpel for You Not Them” is perhaps the most intricate Hella song to date, consistently jumping from trademark guitar/drum dynamics to daunting piano refrains. Follower “Madonna Approaches R&B Blonde Wreckages” makes reference to the recurring Nintendo motif in the group’s work, but does so without any irony. The second half of the record, comprised of “BC but Not Before Christ” and “If I Were in Hella I Would Eat Lick,” continues the momentum, incorporating spooky synths and more unexpected shifts. Without a doubt, Homeboy is the most focused Hella outing since the group’s debut, which is given more attention on the Concentration Face DVD.
Focusing on Hella’s 2004 Japanese tour, the DVD is packed with live concert footage, much of which is from Hold Your Horse Is. This is probably the best content to watch, because the technical prowess demonstrated on songs such as “Biblical Violence” and “Republic of Rough and Ready” are a treat to witness at such close proximity. The interview footage is sparse – we only learn that Hill wants hardly any of Seim’s guitar in his monitor and that Seim had recently bought a jazz box-set but hadn’t yet listened to it – but freaky editing tricks and the inclusion of other band’s sets kept my attention. At about three hours long, the DVD is a generous offering that complements Homeboy‘s newer sound.
With such frequently astounding output, both as Hella and with each members’ other collaborations with indie rock’s elite, it’s no wonder Hella has won such a loyal fan base. Spelunking through cavernous soundscapes with passion and technicality, the members of Hella have again proven their status as a landmark of our era.
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