With hypnotic inevitability, Thug Entrancer’s debut Death After Life unfolds a step at a time into a twisting maze of serpentine rhythm. Each individual cut pulls you deeper, turning back and forth through its angular labyrinth, rendering any previous point of reference becomes useless and seeps away. Death After Life doesn’t just invite you to get lost; it challenges the very concept of location within the bounds of electronic music.
Though every track bears some resemblance to progressive house music, the rhythms that surround Death After Life are distorted and meandering, wandering though walls and dead ends into its beating heart. “Death After Life IV” begins with a seemingly forward stride, but the orientation flips as the kick enters offbeat and the looping synths spiral ever closer. Melodies creep from every corner as a drum ‘n’ bass shuffle steps in, until the pieces fall away one by one and the whole thing stumbles to a halt miles from where it began. The album toys gleefully with your sense of direction, tossing in polyrhythmic stamps of percussion and jagged melodic strains to catch you just as you think you’ve seen the light. The racing lead of “Death After Life III” lulls with a familiar techno-flutter, but the mounting line shatters into garbled digital tones. This kind of subversion of the conventional serves as both bait and trap; the electronic tropes we’re drawn to are plunged down and rediscovered in being lost.
This level of intricacy wouldn’t work if Ryan McRyhew weren’t an eclectic producer, the kind who populates his passages with mutated styles and razor-sharp hooks. Cuts like “Death After Life VII” writhe with a kind of trap and D&B hybrid, while others (highlight “Death After Life III”) pulsate with the slow rattling of garage and dubstep. By active genre interplay, each track keeps from decaying into repetition, and also handily avoids being mistaken for one of its fellows (a common plight of electronic music as it expands into new experimental territory). This stylistic diversion is most tangible in the ethereal staccato of “Ready To Live Pt. 1”, which drifts and sways like a lonely smoke signal through the concrete edges. Even then, Thug Entrancer pulls the rug with a slow souring of the melody, a dark tinge that grows until it consumes the entire piece. With the average track length around six minutes, every possible sonic direction can be explored and unfurl minutely underfoot.
At the end, what really stands out about Death After Life is the atmosphere it owns, the way it can turn angles and straight lines into dark corners and foreign walls. Come the shuddering end you’ll emerge, only to turn back immediately for the start. Thug Entrancer has built a crepuscular and challenging debut, one you’ll want to explore more than once to get properly lost in.