This week marked a slew of incredible musicians coming through Urban Lounge, and it began with the appearance of Trust. Trust primarily consists of Robert Alfons, and two other musicians when he’s touring. Alfons’ music is the kind that mixes themes of darkness and light so well that it’s hugely intriguing. His album covers have been primarily dark, consisting of a naked man falling amongst a black background to an androgynous person covered in black, but it’s his latest release, Joyland, that’s brought out the light. I became fascinated with one of Trust’s earliest singles, “Candy Walls,” but Joyland drew me in as an entire album. I was quietly anxious to see this man perform live. I couldn’t boast about my excitement because none of my friends are aware of his music. I wanted to dance, and I knew it would be a show I could get wrapped up in.
Crater, a female duo out of Seattle, opened. They began their sound check shortly after I arrived, and they were looking and sounding promising. There were strong riffs coming from the lead guitarist and loud, distinct synth notes emanating from the keyboard. It was quickly apparent that Crater felt strongly about sounding clean and concise. There were two girls and one guy on stage, all with hair that was equal in length. Lining the back of the stage were pointed accordion-like structures that appeared to be made out of paper. Those would be used to maximum effect during Trust’s performance. Crater’s front woman was in a skirt with blonde hair and black lipstick. The stand in front of her, which held a sample pad, had an inverted, purple crystal ball in the middle of it.
The sound check had ended, and Crater opened into their first song, which stood out for its synth and vocal syncopation. As the tones from the keyboard rose higher in pitch so did the vocals and, before I knew it, the whole song combusted into industrial slime. It wasn’t always pretty, but there was a vibe throughout their set that came straight from the dungeons of the ‘80s. It was minimal synth wave mixed with Crater’s grunge roots. I had always wanted to hear a sound like this live, and now that I was, I was fairly satisfied. Crater had intentions to offer their audience a streamlined version of their sound, as heard in their single “Ain’t Right,” but it seemed like they really thrived when they let go of that structured format. It also felt like the crowd at Urban was a bit disconnected from the culture that surrounded the vibe of their music. I wondered if Crater’s music would be even more powerful in a larger and darker venue somewhere in New York. I could easily see them opening for someone like The Knife. Genre descriptions like witch house and grime hop would not be far from describing Crater’s sound. Their heavy bass and cold synth rhythms were a treat for anyone looking to escape into the nightlife of a large city and, though it was clear they have a lot to learn about their own sound, it was still apparent by the end that they’re a promising new band.
The venue filled with more bodies minutes before Trust began their set, and the area seemed to grow darker. The pointed structures along the stage lit up in various colors resembling glowing crystals in an underground cave. Alfons quickly walked to the microphone and began speaking slowly in his dark baritone voice. Throbbing bass and sparkling tones slowly grew louder as the sounds prepared the crowd for a release of ecstatic noise, and then it happened. Joyland completely came to life as Alfons opened the show with the album’s opening songs, “Slightly Floating” and “Geryon.” Synths were released like an opened floodgate, and Alfons began his frenzied prancing around the stage while singing brooding lyrics into the microphone. It was then that I realized Joyland is Trust’s live show. It was completely hypnotic in its power to convey Alfons passion for his music, and the power of electronic rhythms was undeniable. For once, I actually understood the attraction of a rave atmosphere. It was extremely joyful and overwhelming simultaneously.
The album cover for Joyland looks like something out of Tron. It’s inviting in its bright colors, but frightening for it’s ominous tones. It became obvious that Trust’s show and overall image was a huge reminder that people are afraid of what they don’t know or understand, which is unnecessary because not everything is as dark as it appears to be on the surface. As Alfons grasped the microphone, while bubbling synths ignited all around him, and people lost themselves to the power of dance, he seemed as the Wizard of Oz, operating only to give people a feeling of freedom they couldn’t create on their own.
It was a completely exciting experience, and I highly recommend exploring Trust’s catalogue if you’re a fan of electronic music. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself a little uncomfortable at first. It may sound a little harsh on the surface, but there’s something completely enlightening about it at the same time.