In a world where musicians and producers constantly strive for perfection, and most consumers demand it, it can be difficult to make a three or four person band sound up-to-par; never mind a fifteen person group, each making distinct sounds of their own which is what makes Self Love, the new collaboration (not split) by Touché Amore and Self Defense Family so incredible. For producer Will Yip, wall-of-sound production is the norm. As many artists can attest to, he makes records sound huge, so it’s no surprise how massive-sounding this EP is, but the fact that he has the finesse to take all of the different instruments, as well as two dueling vocal tracks and make it sound like one cohesive whole is a new level of impressive.
The opening track, “Circa 95,” features Touché Amore vocalist Jeremy Bolm and Self Defense Family’s Patrick Kindlon trading lines and playing off each other like some sort of angry, hardcore Taking Back Sunday, and it’s not only the vocals that duel. You can hear the drums on this song fighting with each other for the same sonic space, which on paper looks like it could be annoying, but actually manages to make the percussion session just sound larger than any record in recent memory. In a similar fashion, the guitars all fight with each other, weaving in and out and clashing together to create tones I’ve never heard before.
“Low Beams” follows suit, beginning at a mid-tempo pace before stopping to build up before Bolm breaks back in with his signature vocals. The song continues to build to a huge crescendo that sounds a bit more like Touché Amore featuring members of Self Defense than the other way around. All fifteen musicians really leave their mark on this song, making it a true hardcore epic. The instrumentation is as tight as the previous track and remains just as interesting, with layers of guitars, bass, and drums peeling back to reveal more and more sounds to fall in love with.
Perhaps the most impressive of all the aspects of this little two-song powerhouse, is that the two-bands-as-one thing never feels like a gimmick. Rather, this seems like a natural marriage of two bands’ sound, where the final product is greater than the sum of its parts. By being masterfully engineered and carefully executed, this kind of risky idea to merge two bands in to one actually ends up being an early contender for hardcore record of the year.