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Released on November 28, 2014 via Geweih Ritual Documents
Like a box of chocolates, when a band labels itself as ‘experimental‘ you never know what you’re going to get. The L.A. duo Hex Horizontal are certainly such a band. Zach Lewis plays guitar and Jeffrey Allen drums, both are also credited with oscillators. Oscillators? What? An oscillator is an electronic device that creates different effects in the production of music. Oh. It becomes clear after a few listens of Act Natural that Lewis and Allen must love manipulating and experimenting with sound (some of the oscillators they used are even homemade!). Hex Horizontal’s debut Act Natural discharges some electrifying sonic energy that crackles with quirky soundscapes and competent musicianship. The experimental extravagances may be overwhelming at first but after a few listens they become very satisfying and relevant.
The songs on Act Natural seem to get progressively more experimental as you progress deeper into the album. The first song ‘Electric Fence’ welcomes the listener with a wicked barrage of oscillated madness that sounds like warp engines firing-up on some sort of futuristic interstellar craft. Then bam! the tumultuous drums kick in amidst oscillated guitar flurries and building shrieks of noise. The rising din lets off momentarily at around 1m30 for a stunning bassy groove. The groove is sadly short-lived. ‘Electric Fence’ then slows down at 2m for some curious and striking sound bends that start and stop with inventive randomness that reminded me of early NoMeansNo. The clever and catchy opener shows Hex can play and the wordless instrumental arrangement has plenty to say.
The title track is next. It’s another killer song that oozes agitated melodies and rhythmic percussion. The first four tracks on the album feel like quick strikes from the oscillation ninja with each song clocking in at under 4m. “Flesh Frontier” is next and opens with some compelling soundscapes that shimmer and dance along, growing in intensity. The track bellows with digital roars and jagged sharp riffs as an undercurrent of calm tries to peak through. “Boring Body” isn’t boring at all. The track develops into a bizarre noise groove that careens between thorny and melodic sounds. “Ether Burns” ends the album with 7m of weird noises, buzzes, fades, distortion, glitches, drone and plenty of experimental shutters, sonars and shakes. It is what it might sound like if an alien band played using only gear from Radio Shack. It is the clear experimental apogee of the album.
Act Natural is certainly for the more adventurous audiophiles among us. The album is an engrossing journey where experimental spirit, creative inventiveness and killer grooves meet on planet oscillation. A must listen, followed by further must listens in which you’ll discover more and more to like about Hex Horizontal. It is remarkable to think this is a debut release. A band to watch.