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The cyborg is a figure that always comes to mind when I play Rustie’s ‘Glass Swords’. It’s a figure we’ve come to know as a cold machine; a person on the outside but a mechanical, deadpan imitation of humanity all the way through. It’s a creature without emotion and imagination, its mechanised insides the clinical antithesis to warm flesh and blood. In 2011 though, Glasgow producer Rustie has turned this idea on its head. His debut album ‘Glass Swords’ is all machine – a shiny matrix of digital landscapes and video game snippets, no parts analogue or human. But nevertheless, it’s easily the most exuberant and alive album of the year.
There’s so much joy in ‘Glass Swords’ that on first listen I wasn’t sure I could stomach it. Bits of gleaming digital shards being lobbed pell mell like an over-excited toddler in a food fight, those cartoonish exclamations on Hover Traps, cascades of glassy machines whooshing all over the place. But once you acclimatize to Rustie’s world, you realise there is so much going on here. It’s like turning corners in the crystal maze and chancing upon some new wonderful surprise every time. It’s an album over-spilling with just about everything: sounds, ideas and emotions erupting. It’s impossible not to get swept up in it all.
It’s an album that develops British dance music’s way of sounding completely alien – from Unique 3 to Digital Mystikz. But rather than just the darkness and menace of most music that sounds like it dropped in from another dimension, ‘Glass Swords’ is all about the beautiful glistening high. Surph is positively romantic in the lush way it stretches itself out. The way Ultra Thizz judders is completely euphoric, but there are those delicate claps and moments of stillness, which give it depth and make it so much more expansive when the track does explode in that meteorite shower of cut glass noise.
‘Glass Swords’ has enough consistency in its short, sharp, bursts of tracks to make it an album you could happily listen to at home on headphones. But it can do the causing an earthquake on a dance floor thing too. Anyone who has heard Ultra Thizz played out will attest to that. Perhaps the best thing about ‘Glass Swords’ is that it sounds like it can do everything, make you feel anything, amp up any human emotion, make any situation you play it in seem bigger, bolder, brighter.
Rustie is the bonkers over-excited scientist pressing buttons and mixing chemicals, and ‘Glass Swords’ is his Frankenstein, his replicant. In his digital laboratory, he’s created a whole new and expressive way with emotion, and wrapped it all up in the most raucous and fun journey of an album. In 2011 the cyborg lives, and it’s a creature filled with more colour and depth and gushing imagination than anything us mere humans have got.