Releasing a split EP is a risky business. Some say it’s pointless — not enough depth to focus on one track the way a seven-inch can, not eclectic enough to be a sampler, too confined to be much of an extended statement, too likely to come off as a half-assed released to kill time in between full-length records. And, if the two bands don’t mix together, the record is a work of art; if they don’t, it’s a disaster.
In the case of two of New England’s hardcore groups, New Hampshire’s Transistor Transistor and western Massachusetts’ Wolves, it’s the latter.
Few bands can pull off this feat, like My Morning Jacket’s 2002 split with Songs:Ohia and Toshack Highway’s outing with Sianspheric, 2003’s Magnetic Morning/Aspirin Age. These records succeed mainly because of how well they complement one another. My Morning Jacket combined with Songs:Ohia’s effort is unique with quality-written pieces, rather than forgotten material they dug out from the closet. Toshack and Sianspheric are both deadly shoegazing acts that, when combined with one another, create fireworks.
When Transistor Transistor and Wolves get together, there are death tolls. This is the first time both groups have appeared on Level Plane, notorious for hardcore acts such as Hot Cross and Books Lie. The eight-track EP is the epitome of “screamo” — fast and aggressive, but profoundly monotonous.
The EP has silver linings, however. Transistor Transistor has found itself a place somewhere within the vast gulf between Pg. 99, Fugazi and Mission of Burma. The opening track struts their brand of snotty, sassy punk. Wolves’ “20” screams thick and juicy basslines, reminiscent of their band member’s former hardcore engagement Orchid.
Still, the split EP is one of those you end up banishing in your closet after a first listen. Perhaps it’s deserving of another listen down the road, but one thing’s for certain: this album ain’t even close to marking a milestone in split-EP history.