‘Glass Swords’ has been a long time coming – having made a firm imprint onto the UK bass scene with wonky tracks like ‘Zig-Zag’ and a Joker collaboration ‘Play Doe’, the Glaswegian wunderkind has spent around four years crafting his debut album, out on the prestigious Warp label. In my opinion, not a moment has been wasted: what we have in ‘Glass Swords’ is a record that rises above the increasingly absurd pissing contest between dubstep producers to create the filthiest tracks and instead proves to be unique in its ability to both sound like nothing else on this planet and yet remain totally and utterly engaging from start to finish. It is one of the most downright fun records in yonks, a grin-inducing constant sugar rush that drops you off at the end giddy and confused, your brain seeping out of your ears as Technicolor goo.
It is also really, really difficult to describe. There is little to compare the music inside to, and the temptation is to make absurd comparisons – genuinely, one track here evokes meeting the Giant Fairy in Ocarina of Time, on acid. Previous attempts at pigeonholing Rustie’s sound have wound up somewhat silly (read: aquacrunk), but the best shot I have is to lay down the well-worn cooking analogy. This time, however, it is less a broth than the kind of bastard ‘potion’ you might have made as a kid. Rustie throws down thick dollops of Dirty South beats, drizzles sticky synths and chops up r’n’b female vocal snippets, heavily-treated with all manner of pitch-shifting and warping effects. He slathers 8-bit squiggles across the mix at will, incorporates G-funk bass and even touches upon early noughties’ chart trance music, as on tracks like ‘Hover Traps’ and ‘After Light’. The synths practically shimmer, sometimes woozy and sometimes glitchy, but the percussion is often the focal point here. Closing track ‘Crystal Echo’ features crushingly heavy kickdrums that sound not a million miles from a Lil Jon track, while on ‘Surph’ the rapid-fire handclaps build up to a climax where the previously unintelligible vocals mutate into the words “you know I want to ride”, triggering an explosion of widescreen colour and clarity.
There are a handful of straightforward moments here: ‘Ultra Thizz’ is a dancefloor destroyer, clearing all in its path with synth stabs that sound like cans of paint exploding, underpinned by rolling drum fills and ‘All Nite’ has a vocal hook big enough to fill a stadium. But Rustie evidently loves keeping people guessing, and even when it seems like a particular melody is coming through or drum pattern is locked into its groove, everything will switch in an instant, and often end abruptly. I have seen an attempt at Rustie’s sound explained as a keyboard falling down the stairs while a drum machine has a fit in the background, and I can’t think of a more apt description.
I’ll readily admit, it’s not for everyone. Some may find the album too mental and scattershot in nature. Others will be left completely cold by the bouncy syncopated rhythms, clean production and frequent deployment of computerized effects. Like a rollercoaster it twists and turns unexpectedly, and some will feel sick while others will never want it to end. In ‘Glass Swords’ you will either find an unfocused day-glo mess or a kind of organized chaos, buzzing with energy. For me it’s one of the most original, innovative and exciting electronic releases in a very long time. Highly recommended.
Rustie plays Wigflex @ Stealth on Friday 21st October alongside Roman Flügel, Blawan, Fantastic Mr Fox and many more
…. Gabriel has been listening to ‘Journal For Plague Lovers’ by Manic Street Preachers…..