The new release from Blessed and Tunic accomplishes everything a split record should.
Split releases are all about sharing and caring. They are enduring symbols of the co-operative, we’re-all-in-this-fucker-together mentality that has permeated independent punk-rock scenes for decades. It’s a chance for artists to share the load when it comes to the external minutiae that surround the exciting, yet daunting prospect of releasing music for public consumption: costs, promotion, attention, touring etc.
That’s about all the bands should share, though. The music? The music should be at war with itself. Split the cost, sure, but split the personality as well. Otherwise, what the hell is the point? Split releases should expand the parameters of what styles of music could and should be considered part of the same conversation. They should upend preconceptions rather than reinforce them.
This is why the new joint release from Vancouver’s Blessed and Winnipeg’s Tunic is so successful. Within the ever-increasing confines of punk-rock, these two bands could not be more different in their approach. The former is Jekyll, the latter is Hyde; if one is a ballet, the other is a goddamn battering ram.
Blessed’s contribution, “Sound”, is a seven-minute Marquee Moon-esque jam that both grooves and deludes — standard operating procedure for these fellas; every subsequent release finds them utilizing their technical whimsey in more subtle and impressive ways. “Sound” cruises along organically, employing a slow, methodical burn until Blessed ratchets up the tension in the back half. They latch onto a groove that starts off plodding but progressively builds to a breakneck speed. Though it threatens to fly off the rails and gloriously combust, it never does — even at its most unhinged, this band couldn’t even feign a loss of control. What the ending of “Sound” does do beautifully, is hint at the ensuing chaos of “Teeth Showing”. Tunic’s contribution is the antithesis of everything Blessed spends seven minutes building up. It’s a barrel-chested, caterwauling burner of a song that singes on contact. Think Jesus Lizard. Think Metz. Or, don’t think at all and simply surrender to the assault.
As far as I’m concerned, Sound/Teeth Showing accomplishes everything a split record should. It presents two different groups of artists trying to tap into the same state of transcendence by employing two wildly disparate methods. It’s a pairing that flies in the face of uniformity, continuity, and logic. It works, precisely because it shouldn’t.