Los Angeles has played home to quite a few legendary musical movements, from the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter scene to the Sunset Strip punk rock era, the latter of which has spawned decades’ worth of evolutionary offshoots. Punk and goth merged into death rock, which saw the emergence of bands like 45 Grave and Christian Death. And many, many years later, No Age, HEALTH and Abe Vigoda brought a new face to Southern California punk through regular shows at the all-ages venue The Smell, as seen on the cover of No Age’s Weirdo Rippers. Another duo with ties to the Smell scene, Tearist, is one of the few new Southland acts to marry the city’s noisy present to its creepy gothic past, while lending an ethereal danceability to their dark synthwave compositions.
Living: 2009-Present documents the band’s haunting, abrasive, but altogether sexy sound via live recordings. Supposedly pieced together from audience recordings in lofts, warehouses, clubs and other such venues, Living is a remarkably raw piece of music. It’s sometimes painfully lo-fi, obscured in willfully muddy acoustics. For any other band, this kind of thing might turn into a complete disaster, but aesthetically speaking, it suits Tearist well. The passionate and dense performance of “Headless” is something like Zola Jesus bathed in as much distortion as possible, while “Wiped Out” captures vocalist Yasmine Kittles screeching with a throaty fire.
At times, the recordings on Living can be frustratingly messy victims of lousy sound engineering. But it’s also hard to imagine these songs in a crisp, pristine environment. Tearist is harsh and distorted by design, and on Living, they essentially sound in their element. That said, a studio recording would probably suit the band better in terms of sonic clarity. These songs certainly sound promising, but they’d be much better when not subject to bootleg quality recordings.