Together, Joseph Hess and Mabel Suen make St. Louis a much noisier place. As light-night DJs on the KDHX (88.1 FM) program Wrong Division, the couple spins sides from labels like Skin Graft and Touch and Go with special attention paid to local bands, past and present. Their website, wrongdivision.com, is a vital and comprehensive weekly guide to the city’s underground shows, and both Hess and Suen have written about music and culture for Riverfront Times. Somehow they find time to tour relentlessly as Spelling Bee, a guitar-and-drums duo that takes the raw, unbridled wails and rhythms of basement punk and corrals them with the discipline of math rock.
The result, on the latest album Caterwaul and in concert, is a type of music that has the velocity of hardcore with the nuance of something more intricate. Suen especially has internalized the fluidity of math rock, and her guitar lines are both nimble and raw. She’s a ballet dancer doing a pirouette in jackboots. -Christian Schaffer, music critic