Last Gang Records
Streets: 07.22
MSTRKRFT = The Bloody Beetroots + Justice + InnerPartySystem

Let me start off by saying that if you are unfamiliar with MSTRKRFT (pronounced Master Craft) and are looking for the same type of sound from their hit single “Heartbreaker,” featuring John Legend, you will find yourself in an entirely different realm of music in Operator. Back after seven years of not releasing music, Operator is finally here, and it is faster, darker and heavier. MSTRKRFT continue to blur the lines between punk, rock, dance, trance, house and grime with infectious, hypnotizing distortion and beats reminiscent of trance and house music from the ’90s.

Operator comes out with a sucker punch with “Wrong Glass Sir.” First we get hit with fast snares, which are only followed by a heavy beat accompanied with almost nightmarish industrial distortion. MSTRKRFT often shout over themselves in lyric-heavy tracks in this album. “Runaway” melds a soothing, robotic voice over a chord-heavy, instrumental-sounding track like a dance-punk Daft Punk song, whereas tracks like “Priceless” and “Go On Without Me” allow MSTRKRFT’s rock, punk and metal influences to shine through with gritty shouting lyrics and heavy, dark dance tracks accompanying it. Operator has strayed away from the more dance and trance sound that Fist Of God had, instead using that dance sound as a base but allowing a more dance-punk sound to be the focal point of the album. The gritty nature of the album “Party Line” highlights with its haunting spoken lyrics paired with an ’80s goth-rock-style dance track with dance bass and heavy distortion.

Operator is a nightmare of an album in the greatest way possible. It sounds like the greatest hits of experimental grindhouse movies and the darkest part of a ’90s basement wave. In a world full of soothing, beach-inspired tropical house, and bubbly, poppy EDM, MSTRKRFT take dance music to a darker realm, allowing me to be a metalhead or a goth and still say that I enjoy a good dance track. In the seven years since Fist of God, it is apparent that MSTRKRFT are holding nothing back in experimenting and working with harder influences in a way that dance music needs.

Operator is an album of ups and downs, though. The style and sound are something I’ve never really heard before, and growing up listening to metal and punk music in a world often oversaturated with dance music, it’s refreshing to hear something so different that I can legitimately dance to. I do, however, see how Operator could be a hard sell to a casual listener, as the album can come off as intense or just sound like repetitive noise. Operator is definitely worth checking out for those who are curious—if you’re looking for something heavy to dance to or just looking for your alternative and dark answer to your friend’s EDM music, MSTRKRFT are here for you. My final thoughts on the album: Operator is like the soundtrack to a bad acid trip, and to be completely honest, it’s a trip I’d be willing to take again. –Conner Brady

Atmosphere - Fishing Blues

Fishing Blues

Street: 08.16
Atmosphere = Brother Ali + Aesop Rock

Now coming out with their seventh studio album, Minnesota heroes Atmosphere are back and show no signs of stopping with Fishing Blues. This album came as no surprise, as early 2016 was rattled with single releases and then, eventually, a track list. In true Atmosphere fashion, their sound continues to grow and tweak—each album never offers the same experience. Fishing Blues has an inspired feeling to it, with elements of blues, gospel and funk all taking part in creating the overall sound. Boasting an 18-song track list with nothing under two minutes long, Atmosphere have offered enough music to satisfy after the two-year break following their previous album.

Motivated to make each album a musically unique experience, Ant continues to make magic by combining a healthy mix of upbeat and fun beats hanging side by side with the moody and personal ones that they are often associated with. Atmosphere are in good company with the likes of I.B.E., deM atlaS, DOOM, Kool Keith, Aesop Rock, The Grouch and Kim Manning, all featured in Fishing Blues, making it an album of underground and independent all-stars.

The song that really opens up the album—and also is the first single and video of Fishing Blues—is the second track, “Ringo,” which features an upbeat track that sounds like something taken straight out of the Gorillaz Plastic Beach. A video featuring a man who acts as a king and a jester accompanies the track, where the people who were once his fans ridicule him. The king role works perfectly for his worshiped celebrity status of days past, and the jester represents that current status: a clown that entertains the people who’ll still watch. “Ringo” explores how celebrities are often seen in this current age, where “celebrity” seems to be a fleeting title. As said in “Ringo,” “Everybody wanna see a falling star.”

However, Atmosphere soar with this new release. Other key tracks include “Chasing New York, featuring Aesop Rock. “Chasing New York” carries a more urban-style rhythm with a cool and calm beat paired with a flowing bass line. The track sounds reminiscent of the God Loves Ugly era, and Aesop Rock adds an unexpected flair.

If this new release gives you the urge to get down to these songs live, you’re also in luck: Following the release of Fishing Blues, the Freshwater Fly Fishermen Tour will be stopping by our Salty City in September. All and all, Fishing Blues is everything Atmosphere fans are looking for—consistent yet ever-changing style in beats and flow that explores both serious and lighthearted themes. If you aren’t already a fan of the Minneapolis duo after over 20 years of making consistently thought-provoking music, Fishing Blues provides an excellent array of songs to get a feel of what Atmosphere are and always will be about. After hearing this album, Atmosphere show no signs of slowing down or stopping. (The Complex, 09.30) –Connor Brady