How a Hardcore Band Evolves: Turnstile Is Showing the Way

There’s a Turnstile song called “Alien Love Call,” off their new album Glow On, that they’ve been playing out for a while. It’s the one with Blood Orange, introduced as a single this summer, in a video. The soft song — more of a bridge — is all dynamics and sad mood. Maybe hopeful. A ringed out, echoey guitar part enters and leaves, the vocals repeat mostly one line — about being alone — and slowly build up, before fading away.

In the video, old live footage of Turnstile is synced to the tune, with some incongruity. Waves of stage divers yield into others, people dance, on and off the small stage; so does the band. Members end up in the crowd. The three-minute clip, when watched on repeat, yields some detail: the shows have taken place over years, with band members’ hair sometimes long, sometimes short. Shirts are tucked in or shed. Colors are grainy, or harsh. Flashes go off. Venues are bigger and smaller; a banner behind the band flouts Nonstop Feeling, a record from 2015. At one point, a guy in a rugby shirt standing on stage does two flips, both times landing right on his back. Mostly it’s energy that doesn’t let up.

About a minute into the video, the live vocals link up with the track. Singer Brendan Yates stands covered in sweat, befitting the rest of the footage. Somehow the sad song that Dev Hynes sings half of has been played live before, at small, sweaty hardcore shows where people continuously fly through the air. “The slowest possible song on paper,” Yates calls it. Or maybe the most inventive tune on a new LP full of them. People might not think “Alien Love Call” was a Turnstile song, but it is in fact a melody the band has played live over the past several years, “as this little interlude we would just naturally jam into,” Yates says. “Eventually it felt like it was a part of us. We felt connected to it, and expanded it to put on a recording.”

Turnstile, much like the hardcore scene they are planted in, are classifiable at first, then hazier the closer you look. Hardcore is generally short, energetic, sometimes angry, and usually emotional — all very rhythmic. Much of Glow On lines up with those descriptors, but these moods get refracted, just enough, by dynamics and growth. There are guest spots — from Hynes, who also does vocals on “Endless,” and from the guitarist Julien Baker — and other unusual experiments for a hardcore band. Synthesizers get thrown in; effects are added, discarded, expanded. The subject matter — alienation, saying goodbye, change — feels like emotional confidences from a good friend, or ideas you want to remember. It’s an album that shows a band with an eye for detail, having bloomed as musicians, creating something loose, catchy, and pretty new.

Turnstile.Courtesy of Jimmy Fontaine.

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