When we were in our pre-teens, my brother Jonny and I received our first instruments. For him, it was a white CB Percussion drum kit; for me, a Japanese Fender Strat with a fifteen-watt amp. As we entered our respective music lessons and grew with our instruments, we were quickly introduced to the world of music stores and in-store performances by drummers or guitarists playing to canned instrumentals to promote their signature drum-skins or guitar strings. And for a little while, that world was a part of our lives. Jonny traded in his original cymbals for some Terry Bozzio Radia Bells, and the stack of Guitar Worlds in my room grew rapidly. As soon as our musical palette expanded into indie and punk rock, however, we seemed to practice less and less.
Zach Hill and Mick Barr’s Shred Earthship suggests a sonic world where the insanely technical and defiantly distinct can coexist without compromise. It seems that Hill, whose ever-expanding resume includes time with Hella, Team Sleep, Goon Moon, the Ladies, Flössin, Nervous Cop, and Zach Hill & the Holy Smokes, has been destined to match up with Barr, who jams or jammed with Orthrelm, Crom-Tech, Octis, Ocrilim, the Flying Luttenbachers, Quixotic, and Angelblood for a long time now. Like listening to nineteen variations of “Flight of the Bumblebee” at a Load Records house party, the record will damage your eardrums and — if you’re a musician — you’re self-confidence simultaneously.
It’s everything you’d expect from Hill and Barr, but executed at a much larger scale. Barr’s riffs are less conceivable; Hill’s drumming is more askew. At nineteen very similar tracks in nearly eighty minutes, Shred Earthship appears, at face value, to be messy repetition. For those who can bear it, it’s a near symphonic experience. From the hotheaded abrasion of “Lakes in Space” to the marathon of staccato picking on “Nerve Mathematics,” Shred Earthship is a deliberate and relentless assault on all things tedious.
Regardless of its prowess, however, this is musician’s music, the kind that offends casual music fans and leaves those who understand it desperately searching the Internet for guitar tablature and drum music. Indeed, Shred Earthship is the kind of wake-up call that makes you take a break from boring indie rock and dig deep into some books on music theory.
‘Shred Earthship’ on Kill Rock Stars’ Web site