Rustie: Glass Swords

Glass Swords often sounds like what might result if a 2011 twenty-year-old with a modern-day UK-based sensibility was sent back to the early ‘80s to produce tracks using the analog gear and primitive electronics available at the time. Two years in the making, the over-caffeinated, retro-future soul captured on Glass Swords exudes a bit of a time-warp feel, despite the fact that Rustie (Glasgow-based producer Russell Whyte) has only been releasing his vibrant electronic music since 2007. The oft-bombastic album is no time-waster, either, with Whyte squeezing thirteen cuts into a lean forty-three minutes. Radiant synth melodies, sped-up vocals, and hard-hitting drums form the core of Rustie's feverish sound, and a representative track such as “After Light” blazes with a dizzying fury that leaves the listener both exhausted and stunned when it's finished. Like some mutant Hyperdub-meets-OMD fusion, Glass Swords draws as much upon wonky dubstep and euphoric rave as the synth-pop and prog of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The title track introduces the album with a grandiose, synth-and-guitar-drenched overture that oozes more than a little prog spirit, no matter how tongue-in-cheek Rustie's intention. It might be the album's only moment of relative restraint, as the dozen tracks that follow explode with amped-up energy. Up next is “Flash Back,” which jumps to attention with a radiant mix powered by a heavily syncopated funk bass pulse, aggressive electronic drumming, and neon-lit analog synth patterns, and “Surph,” which likewise wails though this time with a skittering, vocoder-laced attack that blazes with an irrepressible headrush of synth-drenched plastic soul. An almost salsa vibe pervades the raucous tenor of “Hover Traps,” which otherwise draws as much upon stop-start prog theatrics as it does ‘80s bass funk, while “All Nite” sounds like some epic teen anthem that not only went missing from a John Hughes soundtrack but also got sped it up to twice its original speed. In like spirit, head-twisters “City Star” and “Cry Flames” blind with strobe-lit riffs on electrified grime and dubstep, while “Ultra Thizz” roars with four minutes of proggy gymnastics, vocal gibberish, and light-speed melodic fire. Jubilant in spirit, the album's no brooding excursion but rather a fearless, no-holds-barred plunge into multiple genres of contrasting splendour and colour.

November 2011