So sets the scene for Arcology, the Denver-based artist's second album for Software. It's about "high-tech/low-life society, mechanical structures and data-driven humanity," he says, delivered in the same retro-futuristic style as its predecessor, Death After Life. But where McRyhew's first full-length approached footwork with playful individualism, this record favours freeform acid and techno structures. Arcology hasn't entirely left the restlessness behind, though. Tracks like "Ghostless M.S." and "Ronin" clap, tick and rattle, while "Wage Mage III" and "Tight Lean (Perispirit Mix)" stutter with footwork's pace through acerbic tweets and effervescent melodies.
In its quieter moments, Arcology depicts a tranquil place. "Low-Life," "VR-Urge" and the title track escape into dreamy, bleepy bliss. They could sound like lost Ambient Works except for all the little curvatures derailing a full Aphex Twin-style zone-out. "Arcology" sounds like an alien dial-up, the sort of signals we've been blindly beaming out to space for decades. "Xeno" is otherworldly, too, like an answer from the cosmos at last.
Until now, McRyhew kept the dance floor at arm's length. Death After Life certainly looked to the club, but it didn't stay there—it was so technically proficient that it mostly inspired nerdy admiration. Arcology hasn't quite betrayed those principles but, as the "Ronin" video goes some way to expose, it does court a more danceable sound. Thug Entrancer's world is all the better for it.