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Astrological Straits

Zach Hill

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Album Review

A creative, psychedelic, math rock freak-out, filled to the rim with microtonal sounds, Zach Hill's Astrological Straits incorporates a huge roster of indie rock's elite (Marnie Stern, Primus' Les Claypool, No Age's two members Randy Randall and Dean Spunt, Deftones' Chino Moreno, and Marco Benevento, Zach's Hella bandmates Josh Hill and Carson McWhirter, Zach's former Hella bandmate Jonathan Hischke, the Advantage's Robby Moncrieff, and !!!/LCD Soundsystem's Tyler Pope are all onboard). Playing like a more frantic version of Battles' Mirrored or an even more unfocused version of Marnie Stern's This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It (which Hill also drummed on), Hill's first solo album for Ipecac is a messy extravaganza that is, depending on who you ask, either extremely cerebral or painstakingly difficult. Glitch blasts and synth blips accent extreme drumming to make an abstract mess, splattered with a few sparing musical hooks. Guitar, bass, horns, synth, odd samples, and other indistinguishable sounds all blend together under a monolith of compression provided by producer/engineer John Reed Thompson, who assisted Hill in his musical deconstruction, mangling vocals through effects units and digitally mutating them into alien mutterings. If anything survived the sonic warfare, it's the outrageous flourish of drum fills. Simply put, Hill is freakin' fast. "Toll Road" has the bombastic BPM of a drum'n'bass track, sliced, diced, and served up at a rate that might make you wonder if he has a third or fourth arm (there's a reason that music journalists often compare him to an octopus). But, as well as being a résumé builder to show off his technical skill behind a kit, Astrological Straits is much more than a typical shredding virtuoso record. It's cerebral and futuristic. It's his wildest outing, but also his most accomplished achievement to date. [The bonus disc is a sprawling half-hour drum'n'piano free jazz odyssey, with Marco Benevento of the Benevento/Russo Duo pounding the keys: it's too exhausting to be tolerable. There's really no need for its inclusion; the wealth of material to sift through on disc one should be more than enough.]


Born: 28 December 1979

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Based out of Sacramento, California, drummer Zach Hill is best known as half of the adventurous indie rock group Hella, but he has also spent time in Twiggy Ramirez and Chris Goss' project Goon Moon, the experimental supergroup Nervous Cop, and the Ladies with Pinback's Rob Crow, and he often collaborates with guitarist Mick Barr. In 2004 he took steps toward a solo career, with Masculine Drugs being released as a Zach Hill and Holy Smokes album, but the 2006 follow-up, Talk to Your Kids About Gangs,...
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Astrological Straits, Zach Hill
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