In the throes of belonging all that is cultured within the coddled psyche of a pledge is dependence upon unearned validation. That dose of existential heroin for self-soiling babes who’d been brushed halfway off of an irritable rock, like soaking wet moss under foot, is something to be freed of; A rickety cage preventing the empath from any self-directed forge. Those who’d never bite the hand that feeds are eventually cast unto the mountain of waste they’d use for elevation. The hope is that folk realize they’re better off among the castaway filth than under the palm of the self-servicing, wretches their ‘peers’ only hope they could ever be. The obsessive philosophical thoughts that accompany rejection from servitude could be fuel for prosperity or thoughtless dissonance depending on the individual; Vengeful spite offers incredible points of pleasure for the disembodied types, those who’d forgotten who they’d ever been while amongst the flock. To be freed manifests gnashing among the dissonant, now-trailing maniac as helpless fists blast little more than void in their futility. Seeming art therapy as much as it is distorted noise-rocked post-hardcore ‘Complexion’ is pure confrontation, healthy or otherwise. Manitoba, Canada trio Tunic therein release a hissing ‘n sobbing scrawl of frustration that presents as a habit-forming jolt of blood pressure, self-flagellation and righteous guitar feedback.
The trio would form around 2014, a point of creative tension to release the mounting distemper of guitarist/vocalist David Schellenberg‘s creationless experiences as bassist in Winnipeg acts Departures, Les Jupes, and The Playing Cards. A bass-driven, art-rocking noise punk band from the start Tunic would slowly gel together into different forms with each release marking a progression towards a liquid mush of Cutthroats 9 skin-flaying and the disassociation of ‘Dug Out the Switch’ era Dazzling Killmen. The ‘Disappointment’ (2016) EP was their point of intensification as ‘Boss’ (2017) saw Schellenberg really working to create those irascible early 90’s Thurston Moore-esque clangor that’d pique greater interest for my own taste. The ‘Teeth Showing’ (2018) split single with Blessed reeked further of impressive Albini-isms and a sort of later Snapcase post-hardcore vocal style. This was the point of no return for Tunic as their sound hit that healthy medium between mid-to-late 90’s post-hardcore and modern noise rock aggression. ‘Complexion’ is the fleshy barbarian art resultant of giving in to the process and finding common ground, a meaningful compromise between folk that would appear to allow reasonable artistic freedom for all involved.
A new drummer can go either way for band evolving within such a stylized form of rock music though, it is certain ‘Complexion’ finds Tunic newly professional and atop a freshly polished peak with Dan Unger on the kit. Where I’d sensed modern punk and hardcore influences in the work of Sam Neal previous, Unger ushers in a broader bag of tricks to anchor the wild chaotic hardcore influenced washes of feedback and grating 90’s art-metallic guitar noise Schellenberg has developed in spite of skronk or pure post-hardcore. Accessible production provides an ‘in’ for old heads who might be seeking their Touch and Go Records fix or likewise a modernist step beyond ‘End Transmission’. Crossing streams between ‘unconventional’ post-hardcore and noise rock successfully is no small feat but ultimately Tunic express as a dissonant, modern hardcore band rather than pure throwback noise/art rock and you can expect a multi-generational successor to ‘In/Casino/Out’, in terms of guitar work, rather than the second coming of ‘Goat’.
At just over 22 minutes ‘Complexion’ is no less daunting than an album twice its length in terms of density and impact. I found the more boppin’ bass-driven stuff (“Evan”, “Dry Heave”, “Empty Handed”) held up best as Rory Ellis has a solid grip upon the walking freakery of the instrument, providing a greater semblance of classic noise rock beneath Schellenberg‘s gluttonous, wailing feedback and discordant punching. In cycling between tripped out noise rock excess and the dissonance of modern hardcore Tunic provide a solid mass of beration and beguilement worthy of recommendation. Moderately high recommend. For preview I’d say go for “Nothing Nothing” first, they pretty much lay it all out right there but, the duo of “Sand” and “Dry Heave” should fill in any gaps of representation and is my favorite -moment- within.
Obsessive introspection. 4.0/5.0
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