Watch out guys and girls, MSTRKRFT are back to spoil your trip. After a seven-year hiatus in which Jesse F. Keeler has reformed his aggro-dance punk duo Death From Above 1979 and Al-P has done… well, whatever Al-P does when he’s not in MSTRKRFT, the Canadian duo decided to hook back up in 2013 after they each acquired a newborn baby apiece. Not that fatherhood has mellowed them out. In fact, new album ‘OPERATOR’ boasts by far the most aggressive, noise-ridden collection of tracks the pair have ever managed to grind out. If the robots from Daft Punk had come to earth looking for love and found a twelve-pack of White Lightning instead, this is the music they would probably be making.
It should come as no surprise that a duo who met while recording ‘You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine’ would have form when it comes to harnessing the violent side of electronic music. But while ‘Fist of God’ masked their abrasive synth attack with the good time vibes of chart-bothering hits like ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Bounce’, ‘OPERATOR’ shrugs off this sheep’s clothing and goes straight for the jugular.
The record starts with the vomit-flecked techno of ‘Wrong Glass Sir’ and only increases in grotesqueness as it progresses. There’s the pulsating throb of ‘Priceless’, which features hardcore legend Sonny Kay from Angel Hair doing his best impression of Jesse’s DFA 1979 bandmate Sebastian Grainger, while on ‘Death In Gulf Stream’ they seem to have sampled a single stab from Bernard Hermann’s shrieking Psycho theme and logically extrapolated the rest of the track from there. Make sure to tell your mate who’s eternally commandeering your speakers to blare out house, more house and nothing but house to give ‘World Peace’ a chance, then smile manically as his brain turns to mush and he falls into a coma from which he may never wake up.
The closest thing to a straight dancefloor banger comes midway through the album with Justice-indebted single ‘Party Line’, and even here the schizophrenic mumblings of Nation of Ulysses’ Ian Svenonius will prevent it from ever making it onto all but the most challenging of DJs’ flash drive. But that’s all good, MSTRKRFT have already nailed French-style house and EDM on both ‘The Looks’ and ‘Fist of God’ respectively. ‘OPERATOR’ isn’t for the club. It’s for the Laser Quest arena. As its ‘Meat Is Murder’-aping cover might suggest, this is an album to take with you into battle and play at ear-splitting volume across the conflict zone. You know that well-muscled goon who takes his own gear to paintball, descends into some primal, bezerk rage the moment the game starts and then tries to single-handedly contravene every point on the Geneva Convention? This is the shit playing in that dude’s head all the time.
There’s something commendably cyberpunk about MSTRKRFT’s output. Their analogue attack channels William Gibson via Mr Oizo by injecting a measure of furious anarchism into their sci-fi sound aesthetic. Is future disco brutalism a genre? Because this is that. When Converge’s Jacob Banner lets rip on ‘Go On Without Me’ it sounds for all the world like the inhuman scream of a computer virus howling and throwing itself against the bars of its McAfee prison: a digital howl that echoes through its surrounding mainframe. It’s great if you like that sort of thing, unlistenable if you don’t.
The only artists of a similar ilk that challenge MSTRKRFT on the pure vehemence stakes are their bemasked peers The Bloody Beetroots and Danger. MSTRKRFT themselves have quit trying to mask anything about their sound or approach, electing instead to deliver the turbo-aggressive noise record they’ve always threatened to make. Whether this qualifies as a good or bad thing in your eyes depends entirely upon your disposition. Do you feel like waving your hands in the air and getting some good time party vibes going? I’d give this a miss. Do you feel like stamping your feet just to kick the world in the face? Well, this is probably for you.
Words: Josh Gray
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