by Mike LeSuer (@zebraabraham)
You may recognize the frantic bellows of Chappy Hull from their rightful place at the forefront of Nashville noise rock mathematicians Gnarwhal, a tumultuous two-piece of seemingly very good buds who will stop at nothing to drown each other out with their respective instruments. Likewise, you may place his face as the unfamiliar Jon Snow-type on the frontline of Pile’s recent Audiotree sesh and its succeeding live shows, holding down guitar duties for the Boston post-punks following the departure of Matt Becker. Such cursory introductions may provide the proper context for his bedroom-project-turned-full-bodied-band Shell of a Shell, but the content of their debut EP Already There places the group’s frontman in an introspective light largely alien to the sonic and lyrical chaos of his respective preceding projects.
From the opening “Problem” we hear familiar strands of Gnarwhal—Chappy’s gravelly howls, the collective’s capability to shift directions on a dime—mellowed out in the key of Pile, a worlds-colliding sensation not dissimilar to catching one of your church pals mingling with your school friends at your third grade birthday party. From this starting point, though, the record veers first into a familiar anxiety (Gnarwhalian lead single “Already There”) before sinking into a sparse, post-rock decrescendo definitive of Shell of a Shell’s individual personality. From the pained blues guitar reverb on “To Disappear”—the type of potential A-side closer which makes your body too physically dense to permit your getting up to flip to side B—to the burrowing riffs of closer “Who Will Be There”—nearly equal in both length and depth—Already There proves Hull’s capacity for hearty emotional parsings.
Rooted in Hull’s projections of observing the world from some form of Beyond, the existentialism of his lyrics permeate every cranny of the EP’s instrumental arrangements. There’s a brief respite in the controlled chaos of the Dismemberment-Planned “Rotten Plan” and the following instrumental interlude, but by the time Hull’s screeching guitar cuts through the final moments of “Who Will Be There,” you may no longer recognize Hull at all.