Though Oneohtrix Point Never’s Daniel Lopatin runs Software out of Brooklyn, the label’s catalog has recently focused on the American Midwest, examining the influence of the Chicago-Detroit dance axis on electronic music’s experimental corners. Last year, Software released Slava’s Raw Solutions, which drew heavily from Chicago-based booty house, and Huerco S.’s moody, techno-indebted Colonial Patterns. The label’s latest release, Thug Entrancer’s Death After Life, repurposes elements of Chicago juke to create a chilly, distancing effect.
Thug Entrancer is Ryan McRyhew, a Denver native who moved to Chicago in 2011, and on Death After Life he regurgitates the style of his adoptive hometown with robotic efficiency. But while each of the eight tracks includes some emulation of juke’s layered, syncopated rhythms, they aren’t exactly party starters. “Death After Life II,” the most swaggering cut, is little more than an arrangement of microscopic-sounding, staccato sound blips. Later, the galloping “Death After Life V,” which stacks percussive fragments until it reaches a towering, heady climax, provides a mid-album adrenaline rush. But McRyhew frequently breaks the momentum with unexpected jolts, like the gear-grinding outro to “Death After Life III,” which arrives so loudly it feels like a power drill to the temple.
McRyhew has mentioned a preference for analog synthesizers and drum machines, and his music often recalls the lo-fi experiments of Detroit techno forebears like Cybotron and Model 500. Death After Life is similarly stingy with emotional content (the first of two bonus tracks, “Ready to Live Part I” provides the only moment of melodic relief.) But while it’s sonically cold, the composition often feels playful and tactile. If you can stomach the more nerve-shredding moments, Death After Life proves to be a surprisingly subtle example of genre mutation.