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Hella - Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass

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Artist: Hella

Album: Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass

Label: Narnack

Review date: Sep. 3, 2003

High Replay Value

Sacramento duo Hella’s 2001 debut Hold Your Horse Is (5RC) is something of a wonderland – recorded with enviable clarity, structurally audacious, endlessly listenable and downright inventive. The post-full length releases of the “Falam Dynasty” 7” on 5RC and the Bitches Ain’t Shit But Good People EP on Suicide Squeeze showed the bands more experimental side – guitarist Spencer Seim almost exclusively hung up his axe in favor of frenetic programming, while Zach Hill’s inspired drumming revealed the group toying with both home recording and sound exegesis.

Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass culminates and balances the groups past releases in a seven-song, digital prog epic. Thematically, it’s tough to ignore Seim’s obvious obsession with 8-bit video game musicology — a theme only amplified by his side project The Advantage (www.theadvantageband.com), an early Nintendo theme song cover band. Hella keeps with the Role Player vibe, as “Your DJ Children” sets the immediate tone, introducing a classic “level one” feel of returning home to find your town in ruins. Hill’s drumming is Lightning Bolt-intense here, as layers of Seim’s synthesized fuzz create a thick, paranoid smoke. “Magixburg” is the neighboring town, where relatively harmless, straggler-demons roam. Seim and Hill provide some standard fare monster killing music, sprinkling overdriven bass sounds and weird bell rhythms over blast beats aplenty.

“In The Meantime, In Between Time” sounds like digital asteroid fields cascading from the top of the television screen, which Seim synthesizes perfectly with high pitched bolts of noise that attack in surround sound. Hill’s sputtering kick drum suggests the engine pack may have been damaged.

Seim and Hill’s noise becomes progressively cautious on “Electric Guitar”, as foreboding shadows start to creep in behind Seim’s dusky programming. “Post-Ivy League Depression” conjures up images of a bound graduate listening to the song on repeat while a slide projector charts his mother’s mutating face as she reads a particularly seditious live journal entry titled “Thank God I learned how to freebase at Exeter”. Turn up the volume until the alum cries so hard he melts during Seim’s wickedly atonal guitar solo.

In the final level, “Who Ray” Hill and Seim slow down the melody to a stuttering victory march. Congratulations are in order…but wait – the drums fade out with three minutes remaining, replaced by sinister, primal noise. Hill begins thumping on a cragged metal relic, or perhaps the bones of a slain level boss.

The album’s ending is an aural ‘Game Over’ screen, but the spoils of Seim and Hill’s seven-song, 19-minute digital indulgence are well worth the replay.

By A.A. Davidson

Other Reviews of Hella

Hold Your Horse Is

The Devil Isn't Red

Church Gone Wild / Chirpin' Hard

Concentration Face/Homeboy



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View all articles by A.A. Davidson

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