Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Rustie - Green Language


You could always tell the follow-up to 2011’s Glass Swords was never going to appear ambiguous or even find itself idly archived amid the growing to-cover list of many interested parties. Scottish producer Rustie - from nowhere - became an overnight sensation with his debut’s ecstatic, ear-crunching digitization. Neither indulgent nor impervious to its own sense of crazed energy, Glass Swords quickly became almost an unwanted mantra; a pedestal for critics to refer towards; hailing it as some guiding light in the more extroverted scene of electronics - a time when the likes of EDM, glitch and trap (especially) were quickly picking up pace and making listeners second-guess the conventions of modern-day's attraction to such sound. With that said, Rustie was always going to dive head-first into the conversation - deciding not just to go in big, but bigger than what momentous intention his debut now stands for. And while the double A-sided Triaddz/Slasherr last year may have suggested Rustie moving towards more front-ended, trap-like leanings, it’s no surprise to find Green Language move in a persistently ambient-esque forte - completely taking the low-road on what was his debut’s at-the-heart high-road chase. Thus 2014’s sophomore showcases a slightly more debated, atmospheric tinge to the Scot’s palette - an eagerness to remove one's self from the clutter of data, information and noise, and find perhaps an ease in the surrounding scope.

Initially though, we are to look at the album on its numeric values in preparation: thirteen tracks, one of which only just passes the four minute mark; length clocking in at just under forty minutes - and think nothing more. Business as usual right? Only this time, Rustie’s business is not aimed squarely on the digitizing effect of sound, as is seen clearly - but somewhat confusingly - on the album’s first two tracks, which in effect, feel more like a split prologue to the some more underlining (and already-promoted) offering in Raptor. Workship does indeed strike home Rustie’s desire to return to a more isolative, natured approach with its sun-kissed bathing of synthesisers and sizzling layers of sound that build and build towards the end's inevitable pulse of activity - a solitary fuzz of bass and cymbal hits, inspiring but somewhat precariously, drawing us to immerse in the closing swash of deep water and eventually find ourselves dragged back out into A Glimpse’s arpeggiated synths. Yet it’s the growing presence of a more driving beat carefully, and calculably, placed at mid-drift amid the track’s hazed clarity and the guiding melody that takes hold. Overall though the track is far from leading or suggesting otherwise where it’s taking us or even what emotive or colloquial context this record is reaching towards. Raptor, which falls back on Rustie’s affection for punchier beats and invasive synths, certainly feels like the record’s true ‘next chapter' has been reached with its sturdier presence. But this turning of the page ends up feeling relatively accidental; a result of pure coincidence (or even impatience), as opposed to planned persistence on the producer's end.

So moving onto Paradise Stone, you get the impression - and in effect hold onto the desire - that what we’ll unravel is something all the more absolute and objective in its desire. Yet the track follows pretty much the same rhetoric as the ‘introduction’ pieces - capturing, and attempting to drive home an allure of this engrossing, atmospheric surrounding of such, though even with the textural benefits to its glockenspiel inclusion and providing the lead melody, nothing is built upon or progressed beyond this. It feels more like bewildered meandering, rather than discovery. Up Down (which finds grime rapper D Double E tongue-tying throughout) is more centrifuged and less discreet with its intent - both synthesiser pads and melodies creating an enticing groove, but unfortunately falling back on themselves by the half-way mark. D Double E himself tries his best to distract the listener from the track’s underwhelming lack of expanse, but overall listeners will find it too easy to look past Rustie’s veil - the repeating birdsong sample and stand-alone hurrying beats potentially getting a little too repetitive for some.

And this is one of the major drawbacks to Green Language as an assemble, as it is a record relying on its guests contributions. Danny Brown's feature on Attak in all actuality isn't necessarily a bad choice - at times Brown's flow gels nicely with the track's trap-focused upscale of intent. But Rustie's contribution falls way behind on the initial promise; the inevitable build-and-drop little more than drag-and-drop hi-hats and a synth line I'd find better incorporated on a TNGHT track than I would on something which, unfortunately, finds me imagining it as its most basic of envisioning on a D.A.W. than I would a piece of music. Tempest however is a welcome break from this, ironically easing the listener with its rampant, intenser pulsing of drumbeats and guitar feedback that only adds to the weight so clearly and excessively illustrated about the album's supposedly abstract-yet-floral coaxing of atmosphere. So to find ourselves transition back to He Hate Me, another vocal-fronted (and vocal-deterring) track, the problems only rise ever further - Rustie's imagination and consistency on his more club-heavy, building-congested showcases little more than shallow strips and bars that not only disinterest me in their bareness, but just come across so awkwardly disconnected from the former lush - and more appeasing - ventures into untrodden, sonic territory.

Velcro is perhaps the most Glass Swords-esque track here, one of but only a few signs the producer is willing to be patient and steadily build cohesiveness. And while it showcases a little more efficiency and prowess with some trap-influenced jitters of percussion alongside his glossy, energized-to-the-point-of-being-hyperactive synthesizer leads, it's in no way a hallmark on the record - rather it feels more a fond reminder than necessarily a push forward. So it's with some degree of surprise and swift realization that we reach the final two tracks - again, adorned and unfortunately plastered as but a pairing of epilogue's both attempting the same principle idea to round-off the album - and the overarching feelings and output of the record beforehand begin to appear all the more ill-structured and inconsistent. Let's Spiral shines some light on the notion of openness, yet with a tinge of nature's presence with repeated use of bird tweets that follow from the track's climatic loosening of cymbal crashes and muddling drips of synthesizer sound. And Green Language, closing proceedings, offers but a somber, eye-squinting lead of piano (also with the included bird sampling) seems to suggest the end of a trip, but far from finalizes just what the result or conclusion to this entire tale, actually is.

Unfortunately, it's a tale which is left muddled and particularly less-convincing than the album preceding it. There's no doubting Rustie's ability to soak his listener in with what is a relatively new area for the producer, and it is impressive how quickly the album's non-vocal pieces grab the listener and how Rustie balances both calming and his more volatile concoctions of electronics to keep the record revitalizing and fresh. But Green Language is unfortunate in that it's best efforts are themselves at fault too with their unwillingness to move beyond simply setting the scene, and instead instill reason and purpose into such sounds. What's more, Rustie's move towards encompassing such areas as trap and grime (both musically as well as vocally) is for definite, a questionable investment - especially when its focus and priority begins to break up the flow and transitioning of the album. Not that Glass Swords was necessarily a record built on flow, but with the focus being these multilayer, built-up compositions, the desire here is that Rustie will keep refining and identifying what it is he's attempting to unveil. He's checking all the right boxes and recognizing the impact the scenery can merit, but for the moment lacks a solid primary direction. He's still just fumbling, dumbstruck on which direction he's actually facing.
~Jordan Helm

5.8

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