A bit over a year ago local go-getters 'Del Toro' won the 4zzz Radiothon band prize, said prize entailing a weekend's recording at Airlock Studios. Being the community minded people that they are, Del Toro invited Brisbane indie-noise-rock stalwarts 'Turnpike' to join them in this endeavour, the idea being to released a Split EP featuring one song from each band. Strangely enough, that's exactly what ended up being released.
Side 1 (or Track 1, since it's a CDR release as opposed to the original idea of releasing a 7") belongs to Del Toro's track 'Hinge & Pluck'. It's vintage Del Toro (or as vintage as you can get from a band that hasn't yet released an album... although that's coming next year, courtesy of one Mr Casey Rice). It's Ennio Morricone as played by Love of Diagrams. There's that trebly-as-fuck guitar tone, all delay and wah and washes of distortion. There's the awesome bass part that pretty much drives the song. There's the rock solid drumming that slithers between the immovable bass and the piercing guitar. Yep, Del Toro. Actually, there is one notable aspect to this song which differentiates it from every other one of the band's tracks: 'Hinge & Pluck' is... well, it's sexy. It will make you want to shake your post-rocking booty. Or at least nod your head while sitting in a darkened corner with your arms folded.
Where Del Toro's offering will make you want to get your skank on like some dread-locked hippy, Turnpike's 'Selling, This Century' is more likely to get you to do some emo-kid thrash-moshing*, complete with windmill kicks, etc. Any regular readers may know that Turnpike are pretty much my favourite Brisbane band, and this track is a pretty good example of why. The song starts with a classic Turnpike riff, alternating between (relatively) subdued verses and all-out choruses that essentially utilise the same riff. About one third of the way through the song the band goes into a breakdown that leads to a tense buildup-and-windown-again, taking us to the final third. At this point the band kicks into top gear, with the noisey riffing and screams being joined by a delightfully dissonant piano. Adam King is one of the most energetic guitarists I've ever heard/seen, and the rhythm section behind him is able to give him the base that he requires to go off and let rip with his dissonant math-rock shredding (and similar shredding of his vocal chords). Both bands on this release really seem to rely on their bassists to keep the song rooted, with the guitarists riffing over the top while the drummers find some sort of middle ground between the two.
This EP was recorded by local engineer Emerson, who also recorded The Butcher Birds' EP. While I was somewhat critical of the sound of that recording in my review of it, I think that Emerson's slick style actually works a bit better with these two bands. Del Toro have possibly the thinnest guitar sound in history, paired with one of the thickest bass sounds - Emerson makes the two components work together better than in any of the band's previous recording, while giving the drums a welcome step up in power. Turnpike, on the other hand, have one of the most chaotic sounds around, with the guitar tone approaching white noise at times. The extra sheen that this recording gives the band suits them well, as it reins in their noisier elements while still capturing their crazy energy, making the band sound tighter than ever. I don't quite think that it equals Bryce Moorhead's recording of their Not Lost EP (still my favourite sounding Brisbane release, and probably Turnpike's high-water mark), but Turnpike's sound has changed a bit since then, with a much greater emphasis on repetition and noise.
* yes, at 24 I am completely out of touch with 'youth culture'.