Death After Life, Thug Entrancer’s debut for Software Recording Co. is a deliberately realized collection of dance experimentation and hybridized electronic music with narrow stylistic precedents. It’s also a gripping, somber tide formed from the gravitational pull of an artist’s amble through unknown turfs.
Ryan McRyhew’s footing as a creative lynchpin in the Denver DIY electronic music scene shuffled to the other world and beat of the South side of Chicago in 2011. McRyhew’s new home allowed him secluded time and space to create in-depth and unconditional music as Thug Entrancer. The move also provided McRyhew direct access to Chicago’s dance music history and the groundbreaking works being crafted in bedrooms and blasted on speakers throughout his neighborhood.
A summation of varied approaches to electronic music, Thug Entrancer’s multiverse is not dissimilar to other Software artists (Slava and Huerco S., for example). McRyhew draws influence from pioneering electronic and experimental composers who placed an emphasis on extended development and technique, alongside early analog dance producers who went all-out and all-in with little more than a TR-808 in their arsenal.
Death After Life is comprised of eight chapters drawn from the album title, each numbered I through VIII. These portions underscore a pitch-dark motif thread throughout the album’s fifty minutes. “Death After Life I” is whittled and icy - long echoed claps and panned sawtooth shapes swelter around the skittering percussive elements over the four-and-half-minutes of unsettled, environmental shifting.
"Death After Life III" delivers rapid-fire, straight up acid with a snare-heavy rhythm registering in an upper BPM range before fraying into the sonic beyond. "Death After Life V" frenetically lashes out with hi-hat triplets, lower mix perimeter synths and pounding claps / snare at a breakneck footwork pace.
The album’s final cut is the most up-front Juke number. Altogether shorn of the more abstract spaces heard earlier, “Death After Life VIII” attacks with the feel of a live, improvised performance. In fact, the majority of the tracks on Death After Life were composed on the fly with very few overdubs and zero reliance on sampled sources.
Two additional tracks, “Ready to Live Pt. 1” and “Ready to Live Pt. 2”, will be available as bonus cuts for the digital / CD versions. These two tracks can be seen as a prelude or coda to the album, with the former’s warmer touches adding a daub of color to the menacing monochrome of the main set, and the latter’s variegation upending the preceding track’s lighter, more affirming feel. As a pair, they are a terrific balance to the weightier core of Death After Life.
While Death After Life reframes elements of Chicago Juke and house in long-form design, the end result one in which a subtler horizon is discovered, trumping more palatable musical codes and dissuading us from treating electronic music, or any genre-stamped style matter, with rote attention.