Monday, September 1, 2008

Zach Hill - Astrological Straits

Zach Hill - Stoic Logic

It's only appropriate that if one member of a band does a solo record (Spencer Seim of Hella, who recently released sBACH) the other member(s) should as well. Hence we have drummer extraordinaire Zach Hill (also of Hella) releasing his solo debut. Of course Hill has performed in numerous other bands (Flössin, The Ladies, Nervous Cop, Team Sleep, Goon Moon, Damsel, etc.) and mostly in his regular band, Hella, but never before has he released a straight up solo record. The closest either Hill or Seim has come is Hella's double "solo" album Chirpin' Hard/Church Gone Wild. I'm not exactly sure how it went, but I believe each of them wrote their own respective records and helped each other out when it came time to actually play the music. That's why it was still technically a Hella record. But Astrological Straits is a true Zach Hill solo record. Well, almost.

Astrological Straits has plenty of guest musicians. There's Les Claypool, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall of No Age, Marnie Stern, and many other people Hill has worked with in the past. But no matter how many guests show up on Straits, this is still undeniably a Zach Hill record. His signature unhuman-like drumming is found throughout and honestly, isn't that why we listen to Zach? I mean, have you ever seen this guy live? The man is a living blur. I don't know how he moves that fast at all, let alone with any sort of precision or premeditation.

So fear not, there's no mistaking that Astrological Straits is a solo record. It's two discs of mayhem, and truthfully, sometimes it's a bit much. I could probably do without the second disc, a single half hour long song titled "Necromancer." It starts out with Marnie Stern telling a strange story about a father with triplet daughters, one of which died and the other two who have special abilities. Then it goes into free form, semi-jazzy craziness with Hill on drums and Marco Benevento on piano. It's totally awe-inspiring, but not the sort of thing you listen to more than once or twice.

And that goes for a portion of the first disc, as well. It's a lot of noodling, that kind of reminds of Hill's collaboration with Orthrelm guitarist Mick Barr on the record Shred Earthship. The main difference being Astrological Straits is less metal/noise and more pop/jazz/noise weirdness. Seriously weird, too, like when Zach Hill sings (yup) it sounds like Charles Manson as an alien. It's pretty appropriate for the music, but that doesn't make it any less bizarre.

I really like Astrological Straits as a record but there are definitely some songs that stand out among the rest. And, I feel somewhat lame for saying this, but my favorites are the more pop oriented tracks, like "Stoic Logic" and the single "Dark Art." I'm not saying I don't like the more chaotic songs, because I really do. I just like the catchy ones better. No harm in that, I guess. I don't think it makes me any less a fan of Zach Hill, 'cause lord knows I am instantly gratified with anything he touches. So lets end on that. A high note. I love Zach Hill and Straits only confirms my faith in him as a musician. Yeah!

Here's the video for "Dark Art" directed by Scott Cramer and Zach Hill.

Aaaand while we're at it, here's the video for another highlight, "Hindsight Is Nowhere" directed by Katelyn Reeves, Mike Rafter, and Zach Hill.

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