Constantly surprising the listener with unexpected twists, dramatic tensions and heavy drops, always accompanied by big sweeping synth leads and atmospheres.
[Release page] This album is really messing with me. I’m confused as to how I feel about it if I’m honest. It is one of the most hyped releases this year, with music critics and DJ’s extolling its virtues and hailing it as a groundbreaking masterpiece for at least a couple of months now. The first track I heard was “Ultra Thizz,” which absolutely knocked my socks off; a completely fresh and exciting piece of music that combines elements of UK Bass, Anthemic rave, ‘80’s synth wizardry and UK Garage. I literally grabbed everyone I could find and forced them to listen to it several times. The album though leaves me with feelings that are in a state of flux. At times I wonder what on earth he was thinking, and at others times I’m convinced beyond doubt of his genius.
Glass Swords is Rustie’s highly anticipated debut album released on the legendary Warp label. The Glaswegian otherwise known as Russell Whyte has built a reputation for himself as a DJ of some considerable repute over the last few years, and has a string of releases which have earned him a faithful if underground following. His music is certainly on the wonky side and defies categorization. If I were pushed I would probably say it falls somewhere among Wonky Hip Hop, UK Bass, Retro Electronica and good old fashioned Rave music (take from that what you will).
“Ultra Thizz” is definitely the stand out track from the album. It’s a soaring synth ride that drops with a massive wallop of extremely well produced and hard hitting bass. I’ve experienced this track over a good system in a club, and it certainly delivers in the dance floor stakes – the drop is huge and impacting; a guaranteed hands in the air crowd pleaser. The ‘80’s style synth work that is present in this track is a bit of theme throughout the album as it turns out. It’s reminiscent of that era when synthesizers were becoming much more accessible, and the pure enjoyment of playing with sounds which were actually new to most ears led to all sorts of musical meanderings using presets with names like “sunrise,” “space port,” “crazy lead” or “fat bass” (with an f, not a ph). Of course, that kind of self indulgent nonsense died out fairly quickly, and with good cause – there’s only so many slow attack multi layered and chorus/reverb drenched sweeps you can listen to before you start developing an urge to vomit arpeggiated chords and snare hits with ludicrous gated reverbs.
So here we are a couple of decades later, and Rustie has managed to rejuvenate several elements from that period, wrapped them up with super tight production, injected it with a shot of rocket fuel and delivered it to us as an up to date package of fairly oblique bass music. Unfortunately I’m still a bit affected by the first lot that happened. Do you remember the film Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy? Well stick on the track “Hover Traps” and just let that memory wash over you. It’s an ironic reference or course (I hope), but it’s hard to get over the image of tight stonewashed denim and white high-tops.
But this is maybe a tad unfair, I’m giving a slightly negative outlook on this which it doesn’t deserve. As I’ve already said, my feelings on this album fluctuate considerably. The production is amazing throughout, and the modern take on a retro theme is at times breathtaking. The album is constantly surprising the listener with unexpected twists, dramatic tensions and heavy drops, always accompanied by big sweeping synth leads and atmospheres. It’s an ethereal sound, initiated by the beat-less intro track Glass Swords (also the title track) which introduces the album and sets it up with a hint of old Sc-Fi soundtrack. From the very start there is no doubt that this album is attempting to define itself as separate from the rest of the pack of modern bass oriented producers, with at least as much emphasis on soundscape and atmosphere as on thumping basslines. Really, it’s exactly the kind of thing that you might expect from Warp. It’s different, clever, unexpected and a tiny bit high-brow.
I absolutely recommend this album. It’s managed to get inside my head and play games with me. In fact, it won’t leave me alone. I’m sure Rustie will be a talking point for some time, and will split opinions from here to the Outer Hebrides. You owe it to yourself to at least hear these tracks, if only to see what everyone is talking about. “Ultra Thizz” is one of the stand out tracks this year without question, and however you feel about the album as a whole, it will certainly prompt some reaction from you one way or another.