Electronic music is all about fusing diverse and discordant elements to create something genuinely new. Genres and subgenres are born from these revelatory moments when artists are prepared to scatter the seeds and attentively tend to the roots of a genre to see what grows. However, there are always artists who modify those initial seeds in wholly unexpected ways to cultivate something unfamiliar and as a result, pull electronic music in a wholly unexpected direction.
On their new album State of Ruin British production trio Silk Road Assassins do exactly that. Taking their wealth of experience of composing production music for films and video games and their understanding of sound design, they use sci-fi sound design as a means of exploring the minimalist structures of trap and grime.
Opener “Overgrown” sets the tone for the album as a whole with glitchy, malfunctioning electronics and crashing percussion giving the impression that the music is being assembled by wayward robots from leftover scrap metal. That is until an intense squall of heavy rain and calming, Rival Consoles-esque synths hose everything down.
Joined by fellow British producer, Kuedo, “Split Matter” is a stunning collage of sound as the band take trap minimalism and fuse it with smooth, widescreen synths to create an inventive trap, techno alloy. Kuedo sprinkles the whole thing with spacious, economically used electronics as wondrous, chiming notes clash with jagged trap beats while scuttling percussion is peppered with explosions of echoing notes. Incredibly it manages to camouflage the sheer level of intricacy to leave a deceptively straightforward track.
After years working in music design for games and films, the band members are clearly adept at manipulating perspective. “Armament” is a wholly immersive experience as the twitchy, crack of snare and a reverberating thud of trap bass seem to reset themselves before sucking the listener into a sonic sinkhole. On “Vessel”, they create a real sense of depth as clattering percussion exists in the distance before squelchy synths rear up in the foreground, followed by waves of paradoxical synth lines. Before long these lines close in on themselves before grappling together as if all simultaneously fighting for escape. It’s the aural equivalent of watching microbes breed in a petri dish before the whole thing is pacified as an antibiotic is dropped in.
The brilliantly frenetic “Familiars” is a charged mix of grime beats and synths with a rhythm woven out of breathlessly frantic sounding vocal loops. It’s a sublime example of the band assimilating disparate sonic elements as if they should have always existed in that way. “Bloom” finesses cool, digital texture mixed with shuffling beats but enhances the element of surprise as cracks of percussion and coughing synths lurk around every corner.
“Pulling the String” begins as an ambient, beatless piece before synths rumble like distant thunder followed by startling, quick punches of percussion. The shadowy, spectral “Bowman” wholly deconstructs trap as the band pull at each metallic element as if plucking iron filings clustered around a magnet. From there each piece is swept up by a swirling sonic wind, unrecognizable from their previous form.
“Shadow Realm” is as brutal as it is brilliant. Joined by Russian/Ukrainian experimental group WWWINGS, the track opens with futuristic, digital echoes and ominous subterranean rumblings before being strafed by slashes of synths and explosions of white noise. Eventually, the whole thing folds in on itself as the sounds and noises contract as if being sucked into a car compactor. The appropriately titled “Taste of Metal” fuses stuttering, metallic trap beats, hand claps and pulsing synths that tie everything together before releasing them like an aural depth charge.
“Feeling Blu” and closer “Blink” share the same dystopian vocal sample. While “Feeling Blu” is more measured with a steady beat running through it like a heartbeat, on “Blink” the band stitch together layers of percussion together for a tense, dizzying finale.
State of Ruin is an original, genre-defying album. No two listens are the same as every listen reveals another layer, another sound or another emotion that draws you in. Everything about the album inhabits its own environment, occupying its own sense of time and space. By taking these various, often antagonistic and contradictory elements and shaping them into something new, the trio have created a deep and absorbing album.