Review: TRVSS – “New Distances”

Looking for noise-rock to cut through the film of dusty ear-drums like a straight razor? Well, TRVSS has your number. The trio cuts through the bullshit with post-hardcore propulsion. Sophomore effort, New Distances, as understatements go, is tightly wound. How TRVSS sounds this in synch is confusing for a band with this short of a resume.

The record kicks off with “In a Sense,” which darts from ominous and melodramatic thudding over jangly open chords to a crunchy gallop complete with chikka-chikka electrics that are sweetly addictive. “Disease was around in the time of Christ,” roars frontman Daniel Gene II. “It’s not how you spell it out/ It’s just how you say it.” The record has no shortage of fireworks. “The Ventriloquist Always Has the Last Laugh” whips between bluesy frames and barked vocals over barbed-wire guitar. The wonderfully thrashy “Malaria,” which features fellow Pittsburgher Eli Kasan of Sub Pop’s The Gotobeds on backing vocals, digs into the skin like so many nails and shrapnel shot from homemade bombs. “Stigma,” where drummer Neal Leventry and bassist Jake Pellatiro steal spotlights, is over-the-top yet oddly calculated. It’s somehow not blasphemous to say moments like the chorus of “Scale Model Citizen in a Scale Model Town,” where the band punches and pivots on each punctuating note, could stand up well alongside the work of a noise-rock icon like Steve Albini.

The band locks in few moments to exhale, where the full-frontal assault of aluminum guitars and floor-toms gives pause. Yes, on “The Actor” there are roars but there also are moments where Gene’s guitar flirts with brief figures and undercurrents of melody reminiscent of Duane Denison. But, again, Pellatiro keeps it dirgy and ugly and filthy, and the band positively explodes to close out the thing. “Hiss” features the most straightforward bass march on this side of Bob Weston’s “Crow” but the chorus makes you forget any moments of (relative) calm as it scorches, leaving behind blisters.

Something also should be said for the recording work of engineer Matt Schor, who lends the impression the band is rollicking throughout at maximum volume. The War Room engineer leaves in all sorts of incidental bumps and cracks, even some aural arrays and maxed-out mid-fi fuzz, to illustrate TRVSS’ volume. If you leave the thing getting the sense that you heard it through busted eardrums, you’ll know why.

Successive listens provide additional treats. Gene’s lyrics, direct and oft delivered with blunt force, are surprisingly memorable when you do catch them (“Afraid of lies when the truth is scarier/ Create a risk to secure the area/ Just beyond the edge of hysteria”). The band also seems to try to nail down its place in the zeitgeist. “Here comes the sun/ And I say, ‘Eh, it’s alright.’” Gene deadpans at the end of “Hiss,” in opposition to Beatlesque perkiness. The statement, much like The Youngbloods reference on Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings,” is inherently a bitter condemnation of ‘60s idyllic optimism. And the whole thing sounds less like someone celebrating sunshine positivity than the tired lament of a zombie exhausted from spending the night hunting and gnawing on half-dead flesh.

So, if you’re hungry for noise-rock that singes the skin, you might want to hitch your wagon to this ride now. In 10 years, you’ll want to say you saw ‘em at a Pittsburgh dive bar before anyone else recognized their artistry. – Justin Vellucci, Spectrum Culture, July 30, 2020

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