Review: MSTRKRFT – Operator

Imagine yourself late at night passing by graffitied walls and abandoned buildings. Suddenly, you hear the muffled sound of a steady thump. You move closer to one of the buildings and peek inside to find hundreds of people thrashing about to the sounds of two guys on synths with wires upon wires—the sounds of MSTRKRFT. It’s hard not to picture that when you listen to the duo’s latest endeavor.

For months MSTKRFT has been teasing us with new songs from their upcoming album Operator. In March, we heard a pulsating house cut ‘Little Red Hen’ then ‘Party Line’ with blaring synths in May and finally ‘Priceless’ this past June. After a five-year hiatus, Toronto-duo MSTRKRFT, Jesse F. Keeler aka JFK bassist of Death From Above 1979 and producer Alex Puodziukas musical alias Al-P, return to the house scene with Operator. The tracks are no longer polished and pristine edm. It’s an album meant for underground clubs where hidden factories are lit up for the night. It’s raw, dance-punk.

The feeling is grimy and free. Looking back at their previous albums 2009’s Fist of God and 2006’s The Looks, Operator follows the trend slowly instilled in Fist of God where distortion and an aggressive metallic bite was added. That bite is no longer and periphery sound, it’s taken over and enveloped the tracks with an aggressive beat. Out of all the tracks ‘Morning of the hunt’ is probably the least abrasive with less tension but still moving through the electronic soundscape. The album is uncontrolled, more innovative and less pop-oriented.

MSTRKRFT was previously known for their controlled dance beats similar to Daft Punk but has moved toward a caustic, uncut digital symphony. In recent interviews, they said this album was meant for themselves more than the public. It is an album that they could listen to with a sound that they felt wasn’t being produced elsewhere.

The two producers started carefully crafting each track of their new sound back in 2013. They worked together on two synths and hardware to feed audio directly into a mixer rather than composing each sound bite separately. By using physical equipment, they limited the type of sounds they could produce. The pair jammed together like traditional musicians to find what worked in the moment, instead of adding on afterwards—which makes it easier to recreate the songs with a smooth transition to a live set.

Listen for Operator, due out on July 22 via Last Gang Records. It’ll make you want to find an abandoned building and move to the beat until you can’t feel anything but your racing pulse.

Review by Misha Sesar