When did music decide that using vowels was too mainstream? Was it when CDs started disappearing from our shelves that it was decided that a, e, i o and u should follow? Or that if you whack a beat on it you should shed some letters (ahem, SBTRKT, MSTRKRFT)? ‘Goth dance’ Toronto duo TRUST might have lost ‘u’ to gain their album title TRST, but they haven’t lost us – quite yet.
In the formation of this twosome, who practice cold synth like it’s a pagan ritual, Austra drummer Maya Postepki has side-stepped from the witchery electronica of the all girl-trio to join forces with vocalist Robert Alforn. Formed in 2009, this year’s release shows just how deep Trust has delved into a cavern of music that’s dark, deadly and hella dancey.
TRST is a record that evokes cigarette butts and broken lightbulbs and well-worn 80s linoleum dancefloors. It’s pop with a bite (that’ll leave punctured teeth marks), it’s dance music to pump the veins of dead-eyed Goths. It’s not maudlin. It’s full-throttle and occasionally thrilling, and always accompanied by a cloak of gloomy darkness that snarls alongside the ever-present synth.
Opening track “Shoom” sets the bar for the LP, with Alforn’s Vincent Price-eqsue groan intoning over swerving crests of synths that judder their way along like skin moving over a spine. Along with single “Bulbform,” it’s atypical of the album’s melancholy dance sound – and if you’ve seen the accompanying otherworldly video, an epitome of Trust’s nihilistic aesthetic. It’s a contrast to the pensive single “Candy Walls,” whose beats ricochet against an unyielding wall of sound.
TRST is great when it takes residence in a disco no-man’s land: “This Ready Flesh” opens with powerful bursts segueing into a confident swagger as Alforn grumbles full-throated utterances. “Gloryhole” is every bit as glorious and seedy as one would expect, while “Dressed for Space” is astral, throbbing and pulsating with drama as synth-laden fingers burrow into your brain. Almost-mainstream “Sulk” shows a euphoria rarely glimpsed on the other tracks, despite the languorous creeps across the keys. The intro sounds like the love child of a Red One production and an ‘80s dancefloor filler; it’s one for the Goth girls who aren’t averse to whipping their hair.
You’ll find an intriguing listen in TRST. It’s the unexpected turns within the music that pique the listener’s interest, rather than the rotten grumbles which are sometimes lost within the climatic arcs. Heavy as Alforn’s intonation is, it occasionally struggles to pierce the cascades of sound, as on the glimmering Heaven. On “F.T.F,” Postepki’s lighter, less gnarly vocal is welcome light relief.
Some of the tracks fade away into their own spectral disco haze. “The Last Dregs” is named well: disjointed ebbs of grit and synth are washed about with repeated, empty lyrics. “It’s hard to remember it/ you’re lost to me/wretched always” are almost summary enough for the initial lumpen minutes, until a euphoric synth crystallisation that makes this awkward start evaporate from memory.
And yet, perhaps we should TRST in Trust. They’ll have the fingers of the dead twitching. And one expects that that’s exactly what they’d like to happen.