“Me calling it a Megamixx is just an excuse to get to Volume Three of anything.” With that humorously self-deprecating description from El-P out of the way, welcome to the otherwise dark and forbidding “Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3.” Don’t kick yourself if you’re wondering how you missed Volume One and Volume Two. El-Producto released previous volumes spuriously just to compile creative output that didn’t fit into albums he had done for himself or others. The third edition is much more cohesively planned, which is why it’s getting a proper in store release, conceived as the stopping point between “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” and the long expected/anticipated sequel. El-P describes this third mix as “mini-movements that have a real beginning, middle and end” as opposed to just random instrumentals. A proper review will put that to the test.
“Hell3” (also the convenient abbreviation used by the label) starts off with the sadistically titled and sounding “Take You Out at the Ball Game” – apparently at this baseball game you take your clothes off and get sodomized while organs and guitars play anthemic music. That’s not stated literally of course, but from the samples and instrumentals one can definitely draw that conclusion. If things can be said to get friendlier on a track called “Whores: The Movie” then that’s certainly the case moving forward. El-P’s typically layered approach to production is in full effect here, opening with sonic screaming, high speed drumming and a simmering electronic backdrop before an upward whine brings in the heavy bassline. This is headnod music for getting punched in the head repeatedly, and if you’ve heard any previous El-P song or production and enjoyed that audio attack, this joint is right up your alley. It’s actually a shame that he’s not rapping on it.
The song blends smoothly into the follow up “Meanstreak (In 3 Parts),” which strikes me as the perfect background music for a zombie massacre video game. Believe me that’s entirely a compliment – blasting the undead with a shotgun to the rhythm of this beat is such a good idea I’m going to give it a try later with Dead Rising. “DMSC” has a more militaristic beat, but it’s still an enjoyably funky industrial hip-hop beat. Things take another ominous turn on “Drunk With a Loaded Pistol” though, a song whose every echo and reverberation suggest a man slumbering toward his prey down a darkened alleyway. It takes “Music to Driveby” to a new level.
Echoing, ambient, electronic sounds are the hallmark of El-P’s style in general and “Hell3” in particular. From the harshly beautiful “Time Won’t Tell” blending into the “WHAT?!” punctuated “Secret Police Man’s Ball” to the “I Got This (El-P Remix)” it’s all about the whomp of the beats, the whine of the electronics, the rhythm that snaps your fingers while you squeeze the trigger of a power drill. So this isn’t everybody’s cup of tea – it isn’t meant to be anyway. There’s a very Stephen King like sadistic sense of humor to “Hell3,” particularly when El gives his own interpretation of “Driving Down the Block” by Kidz in the Hall and turns a song that became a hipster anthem into a pulsing machine of air raid attitude that’s cool in its anti-cool, melting away into a puddle of tinkling melody on the hook before bringing back air horns, beats and scratches. It’s complex, quirky, and hard to resist. The same can be said of the frantic “How to Serve Man (Stripped)” and stunningly mellow “Contagious Snippet.”
By the time “Hell3” closes on the nearly 9 minute “Eat My Garbage 2” you’ve been on a bizarre journey through the mind of a madman you can’t resist listening to all over again. Is it as cohesive as El-P claims? Do these feel like proper beginnings and endings with all the right pieces in the middle? Sometimes. It would be more fitting to say “Hell3” is an album that challenges conventional understanding of WHAT beginnings and endings are, leaving it up to the listener to draw their own conclusions, and that’s what makes “Hell3” both interesting and frustrating – but far moreso of the former than the latter.