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Review: Rustie sounds revitalized on new album EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE

Review: Rustie sounds revitalized on new album EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE

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It's a sparkling, snappy statement from electronic music's periphery

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Christopher Franko

A few months before tossing new LP EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE onto the internet like so much spare change, Russell Whyte (the producer who records as Rustie) took a crack at remixing Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber’s "Where Are Ü Now." He plucks the song from the border separating real and processed and turns it into fodder for some future inspirational NASA clip. Bieber whimpers from the cockpit of a spaceship rocketing into galaxies unknown; the original’s drop has been eschewed in favor of shuddering, steroidal acceleration.

It’s a great remix, but it’s telling that Whyte is operating on one of this year’s signature songs from a spot on the periphery. Looking back on the half-decade in electronic music, it’s not hard to imagine a world in which he’s the one shepherding Bieber’s comeback while Skrillex tinkers in relative obscurity. (Like a cockroach darting from crack to crack after a nuclear apocalypse, Diplo persists no matter your chosen alternate universe.) Whyte’s gleaming, maximal sound — an aesthetic defined by 2011 debut Glass Swords and given a backstory by 2012’s Essential Mix for the BBC — sat poised on the edge of the mainstream, but it never managed to cross over. His hyperactive fusion of dubstep, metal dynamics, and hip-hop was overshadowed by the elegant, streamlined sound of exhumed garage and house, a sound that gobbled up the British charts before spreading east and west.

2014’s Green Language was splitting at the seams with an odd mix of vocal collaborations (Danny Brown feature "Attak," Zapp-esque love song "Lost") and stabs at more refined, genteel composition; it stunk of compromise. "I had my managers trying to push me in one way… then I had other people trying to get me to do big singles, the vocal stuff and all that," Whyte said in a recent interview with Fact. "I was getting pulled in two directions, which I think you can tell a little bit on the album."

Everything about EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE suggests the stakes are lower: the sudden release, the total absence of guests, the artwork thrown together using an iPhone picture Whyte had lying around. It sounds liberated from commercial constraints and from the pressure of a spot near a genre’s vanguard — if anything, electronic music has moved even further away from Whyte’s roaring, dense style in the year since Green Language. The sub-genre du jour’s melodies are dewy and romantic; its vocalists are tender and skilled; its edges are soft. You can’t apply any of those descriptors to EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE, and that’s just fine.

The album is focused, colorful, and stuffed to bursting with sound

There’s nothing on this album as potent as "Raptor" or the searing 2013 twosome of "Triadzz" and "Slasherr," and only a few of its tracks could accommodate a guest verse from a rapper of your choice without serious reconfiguration. (Titanic single "Big Catzz," released a few months ago on SoundCloud without any sort of attachment to an album, is a notable exception.) Green Language’s detours into ambient-leaning, Oneohtrix Point Never-esque gurgling have been stripped away, along with the zooted, instrumental funk that broke up Glass Swords.

The remainder is an album that’s focused, colorful, and stuffed to bursting with sound: there are spitting video game synths, vocal samples pitched up beyond chipmunk range, and giant machines ramping up to life before having their plugs yanked. Some of it (like breakneck highlight "Death Bliss") sounds totally ecstatic; more subdued moments like "Atlantean Airship" and "Emerald Tabletz" suggest the aquatic worlds of Boards of Canada and Whyte’s contemporary Matt Cutler, the producer who records as Lone.

If there’s a single moment that captures Whyte’s current position, it’s this: a big deal’s been made about what Skrillex calls "the dolphin," the barely-vocal shimmy of a hook that anchors "Where Are Ü Now." Whyte remixed the song, so he knows its parts well; his own "First Mythz," one of the singles released just before EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE, opens with an actual dolphin’s cry. It’s a weird little sonic wink, but it’s one that perfect given Whyte’s spot right now — having left the race for commercial supremacy, he’s free to tip his cap at the larger world from the crystal castle he calls home.