Tearist’s debut record, Living: 2009-Present, is one of the riskiest debut records in the history of the medium. Instead of taking the traditional route of going into a recording studio, or even bringing a laptop into the rehearsal space to make a solid, consistent sounding record, this band opted to make a record that consists entirely of audience recordings of live shows. The end result is, although a mixed bag, one of the most interesting records that I have heard in a long time.
This band, a duo that consists of Yasmin Kittles on vocals and percussion, which consists of little more than finding scraps of metal and scraping them on the floor, and synth player William Strangeland. Together, they create a very dark and jarring form of electronic music the brings to mind some of the most primitive records of New York synth experimentalists Suicide.
The record opens with the new wave dirge “Civ.” This song may be one of the lowest quality recordings on this record. The sounds is very hollow, and Kittles ear shattering howl is buried so deep in the mix that she sounds like prisoner being tortured in a far of dungeon, and you can hear her just enough to know that she needs help, but you have no way to know where she’s trapped. The record continues in this vein of dark synth music that is both danceable and chaotic. Since the recording devices sound like they are being moved throughout the room, no sound ever stays consistent, and that is part of the beauty of this album. There are no singles because they come of too jarring for radio, but if you are willing to put in the work, you will be rewarded.
As the album continues, it’s hard to say if the mixes improve or one’s ears adjust, but Kittles’ voice, a blend Lydia Lunch, Karen O, and Yoko Ono, begins to creep slowly in to the foreground. By the middle of the album, we find ourselves at a track called “Closest,” which is might come close to an actual pop song, albeit avant-pop, but pop nonetheless. The metal scrapings are hardly discernable on this track, which is a bit of a disappointment, but I can easily see how some listeners would feel otherwise.
Tearist show signs of being a force to reckoned with in the years to come. This challenging debut record, which very much feels like a bootleg (some tracks even abruptly cut off) may be too hard for some people to really listen to and take notice, but the only person that is losing out is the one unwilling to try something different out. The brave souls willing to embrace the lofi recording quality will have a new band to treasure, and will get to follow them on their journey through sound.