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Gothic music for gothic architecture

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014

WEB_TurstJoylandEmily Hoffmann
“Eighties.” It’s a word that seems at home on a gigantic neon sign, glowing above a bunch of people in ridiculous outfits doing the disco.  While this image seems so distant and aged, no decade’s culture is closer to our own. Dance music is all over the radio. Bright outfits and party lights glow in parties across the nation. Themes of enjoying oneself and, as Daft Punk says, losing oneself to dance, are stronger than ever in youth culture.

But the 80s movement isn’t limited to the mainstream culture. The past years have seen loads of 80s-inspired albums released to great critical acclaim. M83’s “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming,” John Maus’ “We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves” and CHVRCHES’s “The Bones of What You Believe” account for a mere drop in this 80s bucket. Most of these bands have erred on the side of brightness; the goth music culture represented by bands like The Cure and Joy Division has seen relatively little resurgence. That’s where Trust’s somewhat misleadingly-titled new album, “Joyland,” comes in.

“Joyland” is a synthpop wonderland of dark, foreboding grooves paired with ridiculously catchy choruses and lushly dark synth lines. The project of Robert Alfons, Trust crafts infectious dance music with an intriguing combination of light and dark sounds. The conflict between the accessible, high-energy nature of Trust’s music and the darkness of their chord progressions and lyrics provides an experience that is thrillingly intense yet boasts an element of highly-controlled balance.

This conflict at the heart of “Joyland” is enough to warrant critical acclaim. However, the LP’s true strength lies in its maximalist pop tendencies. Each track boasts an unrivalled melody-to-song ratio. The sheer amount of music stuffed into each track makes each song worth a host of re-listens.

Take, for example, the second single “Rescue, Mister.” The song is built upon a catchy bass riff, which loses the spotlight to a catchy synth line, which then has another catchy synth line cast on top of it. All of these melodies then cut away for a completely new bass and verse vocal melody. Then comes the chorus, which layers four new melodies on top of one another. It’s the sort of song that can get stuck in your head for about 10 different reasons. Given that every song on this record is built in a similar way ¾ dozens of melodies thrown into a single track ¾ “Joyland” presents its listener with literally hundreds of musical reasons to press the repeat button.

While such a musical overload could spell death for many musical acts, Trust avoids problems through laser-sharp production. Each sound is granted its own space to operate, allowing the most hectic moments in “Joyland” to have breathing room.

It’s true that “Joyland” doesn’t really push the envelope in terms of musical innovation. The synth-heavy, rich production here is pretty par-for-the-80s course and of course great pop tunes have been around for ages. But “Joyland” doesn’t attempt to be new or different ¾ it simply attempts to be engaging and mercilessly catchy, succeeding on every level. If you’re looking for a blast from the past with melodies from the present, look no further.

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