PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Thug Entrancer: Death After Life

With its reliance on minimal beats to build up its sound, the album is less something destined for the dance floor than something you can appreciate on the hi-fi in your living room.


Thug Entrancer

Death After Life

Label: Software Recording Co.
US Release Date: 2014-02-18
UK Release Date: 2014-02-17
Online Release Date: 2014-02-11
Amazon
iTunes

What can be said about Death After Life, the debut LP by Chicago-by-way-of-Denver’s Thug Entrancer aka Ryan McRyhew? If you look around online, you may get the indication that this is a noir-ish, dark album of throwback electronica, indicative of the Chicago Juke scene and full of 808 rhythms. However, it is really one that can only be determined for as much as its avowal of celestial sounds as much as it throws off the shackles of its netherworld ones. It exists, in a word, in purgatory. That’s not to say that the album isn’t well crafted: it is presented in a suite of eight numbered songs, giving the album a classical music (or death metal, take your pick) feel.

There’s much that is remarkable about this album, though it does throw the odd curveball into the mix that brings it down a few notches on the ol’ critical score pegs, as it creates an otherworldly landscape reminiscent of the electronica of the 1980s. As much as the press release wants you to believe that this album was created organically on the fly, if you listen closely and hard enough, it becomes apparent that Death After Life is a weaving of sonic collage. Songs shift subtly, giving the album a propulsive force and a sense of technique that seems relatively unrivaled.

It is, however, easier to talk about the deficiencies of the record first, because they tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Not to be negative, but Death After Life could have been an even stronger and more cohesive work if some of its excesses were dialed down a bit. For instance, track “III” is pleasant enough throughout most of its nine-and-a-half minute runtime, but the final “movement”, if you want to call it such, of the song is full of garish sound effects that would have seemed more at home on Space Invaders run amok rather than the jumpy feel of the track that it is a part of. This is a part of the record, and perhaps the only major part, where listeners might feel inclined to hit the skip button. It could have easily been excised, an indulgence that just feels much too much.

Opening track “I”, meanwhile, enters a little abrupt, and doesn’t feel like an album starter, without building to something that might seem like a crescendo. As well, the CD and digital versions of the album are appended by two bonus tracks called “Ready to Live Pt. 1” and “Ready to Live Pt. 2” that even the press materials can’t seem to suss out whether or not these two tracks work best at the beginning of the material or, in its current incarnation, at the very end, although “Ready to Live Pt. 2” feels more like an album ender than the proper closing track “VII”.

So what we have with Death After Life is a muddled and confusing affair, but that doesn’t mean that the individual moments of the album aren’t good. When this album hits the mark, it really does well, and, aside from the missteps outlined above, this album does feel like a grand artistic statement that just barely exceeded the grasp of its creator. “II” enters on a hi-hat and dropping beats, with a hint of vinyl scratchiness, before getting militant in sound. “III”, before its sonic detour into the abyss, is built on ping-pongy beats that thud and give the track a rather Blade Runner cadence. “VI” might be the most memorable thing on the album, with its reliance on divergent synth stabs that are icy cool. “VII” is glitchy and a pure cascade of sound, and though it doesn’t seem to end well, or at least in a memorable, way, is a good fit for the material – if it had been repositioned and repurposed and perhaps placed elsewhere. And “Ready to Live Pt. 1” gradually builds and builds into something that comes down hard on the other side of the electro fence, before transforming into something that might make for background carnival or circus music.

When all is said and done, Death After Life is an intriguing, if somewhat flawed listen. With its reliance on minimal beats to build up its sound, the album is less something destined for the dance floor than something you can appreciate on the hi-fi in your living room. There’s a real subtlety at work here, the way that many of these songs sneak up on the listener, and offer something of real value and worth to those who appreciate the sonics of electronic music from some 30 odd years ago. While the album is cold, it never comes off as completely glacial, which lands it the purgatory tag bestowed upon it earlier. If anything, the disc is a statement of intent, and might be more of a taster of a direction that the artist might be embarking in over the long haul, rather than something individual and marked on its own. By the time you reach the haunting bonus track “Ready to Live Pt. 2”, a reason to buy this album on compact disc or digitally, there’s a sense of profound lingering. But, taken individually, the album is full of moments of tiny decadence, and though it never really coheres as a whole, there’s a sense of being taken aback by this album. Perhaps there’s more to Death After Life than the atheists would have us believe. This album, as good and as slightly disappointing as it is, is proof of that.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.