Published Jul 20, 2016It's been seven years since MSTRKRFT duo Jesse F. Keeler and Al-P's last album, Fist of God, hit shelves, which is by no means a small amount of time. It's enough time to have a couple of kids, reform Keeler's other band (Death From Above 1979) for a new album and, perhaps most importantly, do a complete overhaul of their sound and process.
What was once a candied display of computerized electro is now a sinister parade of techno-punk; where the likes of Ghostface Killah and John Legend once lent their talents are now Sonny Kay and Ian Svenonius. Goodbye accessibility, hello laudability.
That's not to say that Operator is esoteric — the MSTRKRFT formula of tight, catchy loops remains unchanged after all — they've just gotten a lot darker. Listen to opener "Wrong Glass Sir," and you might think you've accidentally put on some white label release from an unknown German imprint circa 1993, but as you settle into the track, and the rest of the album for that matter, MSTRKRFT's satisfying simplicity begins to reveal itself.
Although they're adamant there hasn't been much of a switch in equipment, Keeler and Al-P admit that the focus has shifted away from computers for this album, using them mostly as a means of recording their analog gear. The shift towards machines is a noticeable one, as the whole album sounds chunky and tangible, like you could reach out and fondle some of those synth loops. In some cases the machines' influence was paramount, as on "Playing With Itself," where a modular synthesizer recorded 90 percent of the track while Keeler and Al-P weren't even in the room.
The duo have hinted that Operator may very well be the new MSTRKRFT sound going forward, which means lots more brooding tones and ominous squelching to come, plus a slew of 808s, 909s and modular equipment for any live performance — something we can certainly get behind. (Last Gang)