Bodies in Motion: Turnstile’s Time & Space, reviewed

time and space

Songs per minute seems as reasonable a metric as any for hardcore efficiency. On a ferocious new album called Time & Space, Turnstile barrels through 15 in 25, a breakneck pace where pummeling drums, molten riffs, and ragged screams race one other toward each song’s inevitable collapse.

It’s a record of jostling energy and considerable eclecticism, but you don’t have to look to its stylistic detours to get a sense of the band’s pancultural approach. Even the songs that rock more conventionally rock in all different directions: One of the best guitar moments is “Big Smile,” which starts as thrash ‘n’ roll before morphing into a punked-up Chuck Berry riff, only to spiral off in a flaming tailspin of harmony vocals and rattling tambourine. Those fleeting tastes of Chess Records aren’t the only time Turnstile invokes that old-time rock and roll, either; “High Pressure” signifies Little Richard and Jerry Lee through pounded keys and blazing speed. The atmospherics that open “Can’t Get Away” glisten like shoegaze, only to be obliterated by the album’s biggest, dumbest metal riffs. And for a band that never makes the rookie mistake of confusing volume for swing, it should come as no surprise that when they ditch singer Brendan Yates’ yowl for a melodic three-part harmony, as they do on “Moon,” the band’s pulverizing mayhem suddenly snaps into focus as scuzzy pop perfection. Forget the fact that Diplo shows up to enhance one of these tracks with his token bleeps and bloops, a gesture that’s not even among the top 10 biggest curveballs here: Turnstile is plenty eclectic all on their own, showing off countless ways of being loud, fast, and out of control.

Time & Space is so ruthlessly efficient that the mere presence of slow-downs—few and fleeting though they may be—feels dangerous. And yes, these respites offer further opportunity for the band to smuggle in some out-of-the-box ideas: Listen to how “Real Thing” opens with guitars that sound like revved engines, charging and careening through two clipped verses and a couple of anthemic choruses before smashing into an electric piano coda—the kind of loungey, half-ironic scene-changer that might pop up on an album by Flying Lotus or the Beastie Boys. More than being opportunities to ease into airy R&B or palate-cleansing electronics, these bite-sized breathers are critical to the record’s deliberate physicality; Turnstile’s brainy punks never forget that they’re making music for bodies, and Time & Space carries a natural ebb and flow between intense calisthenics and pulse-resetting cooldowns. Even the empty spaces are part of the album’s physical and ideological onslaught—punctuation marks that make the thrash seem thrashier, the rock more abrasive, and pacing both smarter and more daring.

Turnstile achieves a density of ideas through brevity and precision: Each of the record’s myriad small pleasures—whether punk swagger or stylistic variance—lasts a few seconds less than you wish it would, while the careful sequencing smooths out any kinks and curtails whiplash. The words are deployed with a similar deftness. “They want to take/ my right to be!” Yates howls toward the album’s end, ranting against an authoritarianism that need not be named; elsewhere, he’s “waiting for the real thing,” a sentiment that doesn’t need any concrete particulars to make it palpable. And on another, love descends “like a bomb on me.” Each line that rises above the din makes its mark, conjures something primal and identifiable, then recedes—narrative scaffolding for a blistering punk record that leverages thinky ideas to keep heads spinning and bodies in motion.

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