Noise rock duo Tunic, who hail from Winnipeg, have just released their second album Quitter courtesy of Artoffact Records. The music maintains its visceral, jagged attack, a sound owing much to the likes of Big Black and the Jesus Lizard, but bolsters it with a chaotic hardcore influence recalling Converge.
Album opener “Apprehension” mines the noise rock vein with its muscular bass work, but interjects bouts of furious and discordant and metallic punk that set it apart from the material on their first full-length, 2019’s Complexion, and the various other EPs and splits which were gathered on the compilation Exhaling, released in April. (On all their previous recordings, they were a trio, with guitarist/vocalist Dave Schellenberg and drummer Dan Unger joined by bassist Rory Ellis. Ellis is now gone.) These alternating approaches mesh naturally and give the song a see-saw tension that is extremely effective. This is followed by the title track and the approach is much the same. It does seem, though, that the noise rock sections have a slightly elevated tempo which helps make the transitions into the more hardcore moments seamless.
Songs like “Reward of Nothing” and “Pattern Fixation” slide into more steady grooves and call to mind a more serrated take on post-punk heroes Mission of Burma. And of course the Big Black influence rears its head often. The bass is prominent throughout, and tunes like “Fake Interest” and “Smile” ride their unsettling grooves to great effect.
The guitar work here often proves to be the glue that holds Quitter together. In the noise rock sections, it knows to hold back and then pour on the fire when things swing more towards the hardcore. There are also plenty of assaultive interjections throughout the record, splitting the difference between Duane Denison of the Jesus Lizard and Black Flag‘s Greg Ginn at his most amped-up and free.
Dave Schellenberg’s vocals also fluctuate between a noise rock bellow and harsher hardcore screams. Quitter is somewhat of a concept album, with all the lyrics inspired by quitting in one form or another. One gets a palpable sense of the pain implied in each instance; Schellenberg sounds completely agonized and wrung out through the album’s duration.
Overall though, all this blending, shifting and sliding is very coherent. Tunic don’t so much slam genres together as find the common ground between them. The tension throughout proves almost unbearable and the album title, Quitter, seems quite appropriate. This music feels like the agonizing hunger of addiction. It’s an ugly kind of yearning, a desire that can never be fulfilled.