Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Jesse F. Keeler and Alex Puodziukas (Al-P) make up the electronic music duo known as MSTRKRFT. The idea for their latest album, Operator, came from the concept of ‘operator culture’ which they learnt about when browsing military related websites and blogs. Operator culture refers to an attitude of detachment military personnel have to adopt in order to get their job, what ever it may be, done.
MSTRKRFT has been on hiatus for the past 7 years, and Operator was meant to be an opportunity for them to jump back into the game. Opportunity missed. While listening to the album, I was at first intrigued by the grimey and gritty sounds they chose because it is something completely different to a lot of other music out there. However, I soon realised that was probably all the interest the album could stir up for me. From track one, Wrong Glass Sir, it was evident that their rhythms were uninspired. They tried to use cross rhythms by playing on the off-beat, but the seemingly random robotic beeps and boops just aren’t convincing. Runaway is the only track on the album that is palatable. It has a somewhat catchy hook, however it’s still not all that captivating as it lacks interesting contrasting material and the supporting beat is boring. Some sort of momentary relief from the endless pulsating industrial bellows and bangs is given at the start of Priceless where MSTRKRFT actually do something interesting to the rhythm and feel, but this does not last long as they return to their drawling beat. I lament the experience of the poor- assumedly spittle soaked- microphone that had to endure the guttural screams of the grotesque beast that roared right into it throughout Priceless.
The 10 songs that make up this 43 minute long album sound too similar, making operator a bland listening experience. There seems to be little craft in the making of this album; it is as if they are playing synthesisers with two left elbows trying out every plug-in at their disposal and smashing the sounds together. They don’t show any restraint in the techniques they use, for example Playing With Itself features the wild and unbridled use of the modulation wheel.
This album is obviously not suited for a quiet night of listening but even so, their previous albums, The Looks and Fist of God, have more to offer their audience and it’s evident that MSTRKRFT are able to make some stand out tracks when collaborating with other musicians. Whatever this is, it’s not good and can only be argued to be ‘music’ on the grounds that it, evidently, includes some sort of co-ordinated rhythm and timbre. Perhaps MSTRKRFT were in too much of an ‘operator culture’ frame of mind when creating Operator.