Thursday, 26 January 2012

Review: Rustie - Glass Swords

Glass Swords was one of the most critically important albums of 2011 in electronic music, if only because it inspired Simon Reynolds to write an article about maximalism. This album seems like the kind of thing Reynolds loves writing about, particularly his current narrative about "omni-music", in which he figures that the Internet and the availability of music means your average listener is bombarded with a huge selection of music from across the world and throughout history, with all the usual barriers of time and place demolished and the music set adrift in non-space. A 1970s Bollywood soundtrack and an acid house retrospective are now separated by nothing more than a couple of centimetres of white space on a screen. The result is "omni-music", music that takes influence from anything and everything, that is effectively genreless and fits into no conventional musical lineage.

Glass Swords often feels like exactly that kind of album - a mish-mash of everything from garish Euro-trance supersaws and helium pitched rave vocals to primary colour '80s synths and heavily processed guitar chugs, with the inevitable post-dubstep rhythmic intoxication that no halfway experimental electronic musician can withstand these days. At times it feels extremely poppy, at others totally off the wall. Most of the time it feels weirdly like both at once. I can understand why Reynolds labels it "digital maximalism", even if I'm raised on a diet of 15 minute Blue Amazon club cuts and so these little three minute ditties don't feel too massive to me. The general mood is one of overload - most of the time the album feels giddily upbeat and restless, songs ending alarmingly, new ones firing up in a scatter-brained frenzy of randomly superglued ideas and sounds.

Rustie comes across as some pilled-up successor to FlyLo, and like Cosmogramma there's far too much happening here far too quickly for me to take it all in in one listen. Reynolds likens this disorientating listening experience to the mind-numbing information overload that comes from the iPhone existence of the 21st Century. Whether Rustie's album will coalesce into a more sensible listening experience once I've given it a few more runs-through remains to be seen. What I can say after just one listen is that this is a very hard to dislike this album. It combines the instant impact and digestibility of its pop influences with interesting ideas and combinations, managing to sound at once like everything out there and like no other record you own. That's a winning combination, and one not many can pull off -off: genuinely experimental and unusual music that is still very easy to listen to and enjoy. Rustie never feels self-consciously arty or like he's pushing any of his off-the-wall ideas for the sake of being different.

Rather than bleat on about it, I'll simply leave you with the Simon Reynolds article, which sums up the album and most of these ideas in his usual effervescent adjective attack style. Try listening to the album while you read - it's not very long and if you alt-tab between a couple of other things you can probably stretch out the article to last until the end. Reynolds, and Rustie, would no doubt approve.

Genre: Omni-music
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 8/10


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