I think I’ve always liked electronic music in some form or another. From intros to 80s cartoons to being enamored by Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” at the age of 9, there’s always been a connection for me to that buzzing and humming musical world. Unfortunately properly articulating that fondness has always eluded me. “I really like the beats on this one” or “Those synth-y noises make me feel funny” aren’t the vernacular for expressing how or why I enjoy the bleeps and blips that come with the electronic musical realm. But over the last few years I’ve been drawn to electronic music that either taps into hazy nostalgia like Boards of Canada or Com Truise, or artists that weave a narrative into their albums. Thug Entrancer, aka Ryan McRyhew, makes electronic music that falls into the latter category. His Software label debut was the dark and brooding Death After Life. That album felt like an overachieving minimalist musician’s utopian vision of deep space paranoia. McRyhew knows just when to pull back and when to pile on the noise. Death After Life was an EDM record for the Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs crowd.
Thug Entrancer have returned with their second album on the Software label, a concept record called Arcology. It’s a double LP of epic proportions that, according to Thug Entrancer’s Bandcamp page, is “A narrative of an imagined alien colony existing between the fabric of known / unknown worlds, Arcology explores high tech / low life society, mechanical structures, and data-driven humanity built for clubs and alien chambers.” In other words, Arcology is a heady, dense, 808-driven banger of a record.
I like to imagine that most electronic music makers are at heart sci fi nerds that grew up being mesmerized by Blade Runner, Ray Bradbury, and William Gibson novels. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but Ryan McRyhew is mining some serious sci fi vibes on tracks like “Ghostless M.S.” and “Arrakis”, layering them both in floor shaking sub bass, 808 beats, and shimmering synth lines. These tracks move and breathe. There’s a flow that wasn’t quite as present on Death After Life. “Low-Life” is a two minute interlude of squirming noise, like the wreckage of some spacecraft folding into itself as flames engulf it. There’s an odd peace and calm to it. “Terrain” feels like walking into some shady club as creatures of all sort move in shaky patterns, lit only by fluttering, spastic bulbs. “Ronin” seems to be a continuation of the intergalactic dance vibe, with more tension woven into the layers. “Arcology” feels more organic at its core. There’s the feeling of movement, like water hitting a retaining wall or flowing through a riverbed. This is a track that feels like deep focus; purposely attempting to bring memories to the surface that may or may not be your own. “Exo-Memory” is sprinkled with arpeggiated lines and a busy, propulsive beat. Everything builds up to the practically joyous “Curaga”, an upbeat song that pulls you from Arcology’s dark, steely world for three and a half minutes.
Arcology is a musical world unto itself. “VR-Urge”, “Bronze”, and “Wage Mage III” are as tribal, dense, and epic as anything off Hawkwind’s Space Ritual or Miles Davis’ Pangea. It feels like an epic story being told through ample amounts of electronic gear(or really impressive plug-ins.) Ryan McRyhew as Thug Entrancer doesn’t skimp when it comes to his musical storytelling. As someone who loves densely layered electronic music Arcology is an absolute gift of a record. If sci fi narratives aren’t your thing and you just want a steady beat to get lost in Arcology will work for you as well. Whichever way you go you won’t be disappointed. Put some headphones on and get lost in Arcology.