Review: Trvss – New Distances

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It hvrts so good!

Self-described “noise punk” band Trvss from Pittsburgh walks a fine line with their sophomore album New Distances. In fact, they walk a steel tightrope strung so tautly between desolate industrial buildings that it creaks and twangs ominously at every step, yet they maneuver it gracefully and with a wry smile. All the genre tags that the Bandcamp page promises are present: punk, grunge, noise rock, post-hardcore, and a dash of post-punk, and I fully expected the result to be thoroughly unlistenable crap. It certainly is the noisiest and jangliest album I’ve heard so far this year, but somehow, it works incredibly well. Every step on the wire is sure-footed, and the album had me on the edge of my seat for almost its entire runtime. Would they continue to pelt my eardrums with those overly bright, angular guitars? Would they keep up the bizarre dual vocal approach that should be awful but somehow isn’t? Where would the next song go? Why hadn’t they fallen off the damn wire yet?

The biggest help in making what should be a bitter pill go down smoothly is that the band is not averse to verse-chorus-verse song structures. In the process of belting out their anguish and turmoil, they don’t create formless lumps of songs as confusing as the life they deal with, but rather give you something familiar to cling to amidst the sonic chaos. Following the songs as they shift between the often markedly different parts is a lot of fun, not least because there’s seldom repetition between songs, and while you might not dance to the music so much as just twitch and contort your body, at least you’ll always be doing it rhythmically. It definitely feels like their songwriting starts with laying out a solid, often groovy framework that is then caked with grit and pain and noise, so that the resulting abomination is always a surprisingly coherent one.

I suppose we should come back to those vocals for a moment, because the answer to the initial question is yes, many parts throughout the album simultaneously have dual vocals, and they can be in direct opposition to one another—screams that sound like they’re coming from a torture victim in an abandoned warehouse may be paired with a second voice calmly proclaiming the same lyrics. It feels like a stark and effective depiction of insanity, and it may well drive you insane, since copious amounts of vocal distortion can sometimes make it hard to determine how many voices you’re actually hearing. I could see the nature of the vocals and their domineering volume in the mix being the likeliest thing to turn people off the band’s sound, but would like to urge you to persevere. It’s certainly the aspect that took the most time for me to warm up to, but I had to admit it was very fitting, and by the time I’d finished the second spin of the album, I’d grown quite fond of it.

Initially, I thought this album might make for a nice, unexpected addendum to the Loud Guitar Goth Update, but it’s probably a little too loud for that. So in case Maggot Heart was too tame for you and you’d like to see a version of them that was xeroxed until only the starkest colours remained, put through the shredder, and taped back together (or, simply put, if you are a fan of abrasive, noisy rock in general), you absolutely need to check out Trvss.

New Distances was released independently last month. Buy it here and follow Trvss in case live shows ever become a thing again.

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