In 1969, James Brown coined the phrase “give the drummer some,” forever providing skinsmen a handy shorthand and safeguard against singers who don’t like to share. But Zach Hill has always gone out and gotten it himself. The self-taught kit-pummeler became an underground legend as half of Sacramento noise-rock king Hella, and he’s founded countless projects over the past few years, displaying his considerable talent on the drums, and increasingly, his breadth as a composer of oddball pop. Face Tat is only Hill’s second solo album, but it’s a big step forward from the percussive explosion that was 2008’s Astrological Straights. (Though considering he’s been a significant part of at least six other LPs in the interim—with Marnie Stern, members of Mars Volta, Prefuse 73, etc.—we should expect nothing less.) Sure, there are moments like “Sacto Smile,” a punishing punk freak-out that includes auxiliary shredding and shouting from No Age, but more common and far more rewarding is the paradigm explored on the opening salvo “Memo To The Man,” on which Hill sings broken-beat poetry over sheets of brightly tropical guitar and a swarm of rhythmic bits. He gets help from Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier on that one, Prefuse on the twitchy “Gross Sales,” and Devendra Banhart on the loping “Second Life,” but Face Tat is clearly a Zach Hill production, a spiraling psychedelic soup concocted by a man who’s used to everything happening at 380 BPM. At times, the album may seem like it’s made to confuse as much as thrill, but neither of those gets to the truth of Face Tat. Simply put, to paraphrase one of Hill’s lyrics, it’ll turn you into energy.
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