Bombastic and brilliant in parts, the Warp producer's return is frustrating in its inability to stay focused
Perhaps more than any other producer, even Warp labelmate Hudson Mohawke, Rustie encapsulated the shift in electronic music in the early 2010s, when minimal production gave way to day-glo maximalism.
Over a trio of lofty peaks – 2011 debut album ‘Glass Swords’, a towering Radio 1 Essential Mix and 2013 single ‘Slasherr’ – the producer cranked up his overexcitable bombast in pursuit of the ever-more-sickening drop, with epic musical builds giving way to gut-churning rhythms. Hopes are high, then, for ‘Green Language’, an album he claims is influenced by nature, birds and sunrise, which on the face of it sounds rather fanciful.
Listening to it, though, you can see what Rustie means. ‘Green Language’ is no Eno-esque excursion into ambience – the drums remain primevally large and he still often favours 17 musical ideas when two might suffice – but there’s something pure about the best tracks here, as the producer lets some natural light into his fluorescent musical world.
So on tracks like ‘A Glimpse’ or ‘Let’s Spiral’, you can imagine yourself staggering from a club to find the sun already up on a beautiful summer’s day. Jagged edges have been smoothed, resulting in an overexcitable take on Boards Of Canada’s melodic grace. That peaks on the gorgeous ‘Green Language’, bringing Rustie’s gift for melody to the fore in two minutes of echoing piano.
If Rustie had continued in this vein, ‘Green Language’ could have been something quite unique. Instead, the rest of the album sees him turning his hand to a glut of new styles. The individual songs are often great: ‘Lost’ and ‘Dream On’ are immaculate examples of R&B, the awesome ‘Tempest’ sails in on a wave of post-rock guitars and ‘Attak’ sees Danny Brown’s ratatat vocal ratchet up the excitement around a great synth hook.
But the result is an awkward, disjointed listen, somewhat less than the sums of its parts, and you find yourself longing for the singular artistic vision and gut-punch impact of ‘Glass Swords’, an album that felt like the peak of Rustie’s unique style rather than a reflection of modern dance, R&B and trap production. ‘Green Language’ is an adventurous, enthralling, emotional and frequently brilliant album, then. And yet, from an artist of such rare talent, it’s also a frustrating, slightly underwhelming one.