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Trap Producer Rustie’s Brilliant ‘Green Language’ Is for the Birds

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Label: Warp

Since the 2010 release of his acclaimed Warp debut, Sunburst, where he solidified his frenetic, off-kilter blend of dubstep, funk and hip-hop, Glasgow producer Rustie—often credited with popularizing the divisive sound of trap—has slowly edged toward new influences, whether on his 2011 full-length, Glass Swords, which saw his first collaborations with AlunaGeorge and Nightwave, or his 2012 BBC Essential Mix, which included everyone from Lone to Destiny’s Child. His sophomore effort Green Language excels, however, not only because of its smooth integration of ambient, experimental and R&B influences, but also as a seamlessly ranging and novel concept album.

The record’s title is synonymous with an ancient mystic tradition called the Language of the Birds, which revolves around the idea of human communication with birds through song. “Music is like that for me,” Rustie explains in a press release. Thus, Green Language isn’t always pleasant, but it’s almost always interesting. First single “Raptor” was immediately promising in its departure from conventional structures, morphing a woozy four-on-the-floor synth melody into a dizzyingly explosive mid-tempo strangler.

Yet, aside from the comforting familiarity of “Raptor” and the similarly structured, finish-line crossing anthem “Velcro,” Green Language‘s shining moments arrive on ambient-inspired tracks like “Paradise Stone,” which recalls the delicate style of Bonobo, and “Workship,” a grandiose ode to air travel. Verging into more serious territory, “Let’s Spiral” is cinematic in its evocation of loss and grief. This album wouldn’t have reached its potency, however, without well-placed guest spots from Danny Brown, Redinho and grime heavyweight D Double E. While Brown offers up a psychotic stream-of-conscious verse on “Attak,” Rustie perfectly tailors the production around every detail of his lines, down to the adlibs.

“Attak” and “Up Down,” the latter of which utilizes jarring bird squawks as an inventive percussion technique, are highlights that indulge Rustie’s primary influences in grime and dubstep, and ultimately contribute to Green Language‘s broader palette. But they also highlight a certain adherence to convention. Isolating his experimental tendencies to specific tracks leads to some uneven pacing on the album’s second half. Otherwise, Green Language fully delivers, serving as a fascinating turn for an artist who earned his reputation by essentially bashing fans into submission with bass.