It seems impossible that only four hands are behind Hella. This Sacramento, Calif., duo barrels through its spastic, discordant debut album with crafty chaos. Featuring only Spencer Seim's erratically melodic guitar and Zach Hill's pummeling, rhythmically arrhythmic drums, Hella has enough energy to power a small town, or at least get a few folks convulsing in reaction.
Kick-off track "The D. Elkan" gives no sense of where Hella is going with its 40-something seconds of minimal computer-robot noises, but the rest is consistent. "Biblical Violence" bursts in abruptly, forcefully leading the way through a sporadic set of instrumentals. Until the final kicks of "Better Get a Broom!" this collection audaciously showcases a command of technique and skill without overpowering the melodies that sprawl beneath the noise.
With inevitable attention to the sheer sound of the tracks, almost all just short of four minutes, it's easy to forget that only two instruments are responsible for the album's thickness and complexity. It only goes to show that the Hella duo knows how to play. The punkish quickness and ferocity about them might seem like a boast of "listen to how fast and loud we can be!" if it weren't for the quality of their blend. The strength of their experimental brand lies in their ability to keep melody in the mix.
"Been a Long Time Cousin" doesn't collapse into anything memorable or recognizably musical until some two minutes into the song. "Republic of Rough and Ready" finds its tune at the onset as does the lengthy "City Folk Sitting, Sitting." However they choose to suss structure out of the cacophony, Hella do so without being obvious. Hypnotically melodic lines sputter gently out of the tangles in pauses just long enough for the players to crack their knuckles before the next assault.
In Hella's craft of contrast, the technical and musical weigh equally, complementing each other with a carelessness that can only come out of care. And it's this quality that translates their spasms without losing hold of their horses as they charge through the tracks.