Glass Swords seems set on out-gauching a league of contemporaries who are beginning to add completely unfashionable genre signifiers to their music. You don't get much more direct than "Hover Traps," whose slap bass (like it was taken right off of Seinfeld) is quickly rendered irrelevant in the face of the massive flashes of fuzzy white light, enough to invoke memories of Above & Beyond or ATB's heyday. Indeed, on several tracks Rustie prefers the tried-and-tested trance trick of snare rolls and epic build-ups ("After Light") that explode into tacky fireworks.
But it doesn't end there. Influenced equally by progressive rock and video games, he loads his music with theatrical melodrama, the stuff of medieval adventures and space-age voyages. There are searing guitar solos constantly cutting through these beats, another layer of sensory-overload sugar, and at its most potent the mixture is an absolute knockout. Standout single "Ultra Thizz" mixes these prog-rock heroics with drum machine acrobatics and trance euphoria, a dizzying combination of high octane drama so convincing it can't help but ingratiate itself through sheer willpower.
It might all be a little childlike were the music not so dauntingly complex: melodies rarely go the predictable path and they even more rarely repeat. The rhythms are removed from the quantized boom-bap he used to be associated with, effortlessly switching grooves like a live drummer controlled by Rustie's expert puppeteer hands. I'd be hard-pressed to put these tracks in any genre: though tracks like "Death Mountain" and "Cry Flames" have serrated and plunging dubstep basslines, the jagged, unpredictable movements are anything but typical. A track like "All Nite" flips the playful funk of Hudson Mohawke into a convulsing monster where the hot pink synth blasts sound like they're being squeezed through a straw at random.
If an album of tireless prog-dance sounds fatiguing, Rustie's got your back there too. You can only handle so much sugar before teeth are dissolving in your mouth, so these tracks are kept to agreeable lengths, and a dependable dynamic of careful intros (before "City Star" falls off into hip-hop mayhem it's a real sci-fi tearjerker) means there are necessary plateaus and valleys to keep the high from wearing off (or wearing listeners out).
I'll admit I wasn't the biggest fan of the surprising new direction on Rustie's Warp EP debut Sunburst, but he's completely reworked the formula here, tightening it, reinforcing it, and making it a whole lot more attractive in the process. Gone is the self-indulgent sense of excess and in its place is a well-oiled system of interlocking melodies catchy enough to lodge themselves into your brain even when there's three of them going at once. Glass Swords is a place where pleasure is the only constant: it doesn't matter that he's playing with self-consciously "cheesy" sounds or untouchable genres when the songs are this good. We've come a long way from "aquacrunk"—so here's your trance, now dance.
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Tracklist: Rustie - Glass Swords 01. Glass Swords
02. Flash Back
04. Hover Traps
05. City Star
07. Ultra Thizz
08. Death Mountain
09. Cry Flames
10. After Light
11. Ice Tunnels
12. All Nite
13. Crystal Echo