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Thug Entrancer – Death After Life

Software

Thug Entrancer - Death After LifeThug Entrancer‘s Death After Life smashes the fourth wall of an Atari screen, riding into outerspace on Hokusai‘s Vaporwave to fight Space Invaders, while the Silver Surfer does backbends and smokes spliff. Equal parts eccojam and beat-tape, Ryan McRyhew draws an intangible line from ’90s braindance to the folk poetry of hip-hop.

McRyhew has been making music for years, in a variety of projects, along with running the Laser Palace label and playing in the band Hideous Men with his wife Kristy, so it’s nice to see him get picked up by Oneohtrix Point Never‘s Software Records. He is poised to perhaps surpass even Daniel Lopatin‘s ability for high-concept and downright funkiness.

On Death After Life, McRyhew has accomplished the difficult task of getting Waka Flocka tuned snares to sound like something other than Botox needles in your eardrums, making them warm and inviting. Every element is carefully chosen and placed just so – fine-tuned, you might say. This allows an opportunity for re-appraisal of juke, footwork, and trap, all genres from which Thug Entrancer borrows elements – which have a ton of potential for interesting rhythms and intricate sound sculpture, but have a tendency to sound harsh, cheap and digital.

Choice mixing and superb source material, recorded straight from hardware with very few overdubs, illustrate some of the innovative terrain that is being explored by beat scientists currently. Its like the beany-headed head-nodders and the mnml tone scientists have fused,  become one and the same.

Which is good, as we have a lot to learn from one another. One of the most promising possible outcomes from this cross-pollination is the precision possible with the machine language of techno, fused with the groove and the feeling of hip-hop. Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa have been re-united, and the circle is now complete.

You can really sense the presence of McRyhew’s hands at work on this record, whether by pouncing on an MPC’s idiotpads or by hand-programming a drum machine. This makes for a ton of rhythmic variation and nuance, which keeps things gliding along. This same attention to detail is paid to the synths, which range from epic trance to crystal-rain sequencers, to straight-up noise, like the Galaga apocalypse at the end of “Death After Life III,” which is perhaps the best example of what this album can achieve. It sounds like a Pong machine ran through a loudspeaker; it zooms and swarms, eventually consuming yr world. A lot of reviewers despise it (they don’t listen to a lot of noise records, apparently), but I find it imaginative and charming. It combines the tactile grit and handmade quality of the best noise records, mixed with some colourful sci-fi psychodrama – not the kind of thing you often find on a beat-tape.

That’s because its not JUST a beat-tape. Which makes it a very good beat-tape.

Thug Entrancer actually stands a good chance of crossing over as his music could appeal to the recent hardware and synth fetishists, as well as fans of hip-hop’s futurism, artists like Flying Lotus and the Stones Throw canon. If ActressGhettoville was a sonic map of an endless post-industrial sprawl, a dystopian depiction of the ultimate triumph of the digital spread, than Death After Life is the graffiti on the walls: “Viva La Revoluçion!” and “Fuck Art, Lets Dance.”

It’s too soon to admit defeat, and Thug Entrancer reminds us there’s work to be done, combinations to be refined and explored. Let’s get busy innovating.

-J Simpson-

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