The Entry Point
“Experimental electronic” has long been at the forefront of musical boundaries. The artists that work in the genre are always willing to push boundaries in terms of both song structure and the sounds that they incorporate. Acts such as Oneohtrix Point Never, Clark and Zola Jesus have delighted and terrified audiences with their innate knowledge of both exciting dance tracks and vicious noise. On Thrust, Bryan Black (aka Black Asteroid) works with some of the foremost experimental electronic producers to create a unique and wonderfully balanced work of dance and violence that is sure to excite any listener, whether they be an experimental veteran or a newcomer to the scene.
The first track, “Thrust,” immediately forces the listener to brace for the rest of the album. It begins with a deep rattling synth that bursts and undulates over snares before exploding out into a high-pitched drone, infusing the song with a body and rhythm that is wholly experimental and entirely approachable. The track is fairly short and serves as an exciting intro that exhibits the more aggressive half of the album before moving into “Black Moon,” which features Cold Cave (Wesley Eisold of American Nightmare/Give Up The Ghost) and his haunting ’80s-style vocals over bleeping synths, all over a driving drum beat. This song is much more approachable from a beginner’s standpoint but still pushes the envelope in terms of the background synths as well as some of the glitches applied to Cold Cave’s voice, which help to keep the track interesting and unique. One of the more interesting tracks on the album, “Howl,” features the incomparable Zola Jesus and uses her stellar abilities to great effect. It begins with a deep rumble of a synth. Then enter a kick drum and Jesus’s haunting vocal melodies, which feel as though they were recorded in an open cathedral, as they rattle and echo across the soundscape. The most interesting part of this number is the clear influence of Jesus in these random, furious bursts of noise that pierce through the track at will, adding an element of tension that helps to keep the listener engaged. “Howl” will certainly appeal to anyone who has dabbled in noise music, due to its tantalizingly gritty, static tone.
The rest of the album continues in a similar manner, often relying on an addictive mixture of ’80s retro synth and more aggressive modern experimental electronic notes. One of the best examples is “Metal Drum,” which would feel right at home playing at a festival next to contemporary artists like Black Gummy and Rezz. The ability of this record to constantly play with genre types is one of its greatest strengths and helps to keep the record exciting from start to finish. Sadly, Thrust does contain one weakness that, while not overly aggressive, can inhibit one’s enjoyment of the album. Any record that chooses to have lyrics should ensure that those lyrics are careful and well-thought-out. Yet, unfortunately, the lyrics on Thrust often seem haphazard; lines such as, “You want to pray, you want to sing / here comes fear,” employ pretty common dance music repetitions. The lyrics are essentially meaningless outside of the texture they provide through the singer. Luckily for Black Asteroid and the listener, electronic largely gets a pass on lyrics, and this album is not majorly worse off for it.
Albums like Thrust are always exciting finds for listeners that are willing to dig around a bit. They are remembered so fondly by experimental aficionados as the types of records that originally dragged them into this strange and noisy world. Thrust is an important and well-made work. It can hold the interest of almost any experimental listener, regardless of how out-there his or her tastes may be. It also has enough access points that it could be shown harmlessly to a more casual listener, and maybe, just maybe, have enough pull to drag them over to the weird side.