Trust in the Dark

Photo by Seth Fluker
Photo by Seth Fluker

Like the smoke show that dominated the stage at the Electric Owl this past Tuesday night, Trust, the solo synth pop project of Robert Alfons, played a set invested in sonic shades and tones. Despite being often lumped in the same breath with fellow Torontonian act Crystal Castles due to their affiliation with dark wave, Trust is a different beast altogether.

Trust is currently on tour to support Joyland, an album hatched on the road, and a product that undeniably fed off of the daily bump and grind of performing live. It’s also Trust’s first record completed without one of their founding members, Maya Postepski, who made up the female half of the electronic duo. Postepski left soon after the debut release of TRST back in 2012 to focus on another band, Austra.

But it’s fairly safe to say that neither the new record nor the live gigs have undergone a dip in quality due to this change. In fact, it’s more than fairly safe, and pretty much an accurate assessment of the situation. Alfons owned the heart of the night time crowd with his brand of underground thumping madness.

It was one of those “Thank God It’s Tuesday” nights, with everyone showing off how drunk and tripped out they were. In front of a responsive crowd that ate up the loud and lovable kick drums that were mimicked by the regular flashing of strobe lights, Alfons jumped and danced with the best of his fans up on the stage he shared with band mates Anne Gauthier and Esther Munits. Enveloped by fingers of smoke, with electrifyingly monotonous beats bringing out the riveting weirdness of his voice, Alfons was captivating.

“Capitol”, with its descending piano keys, was played early on in the show, and it set the emotional physicality of Trust’s music as the first order of business. It didn’t matter so much that Alfons sounded as if he was singing – at times mumbling – in a language he made up himself, because the sound was provocative, and it got the people going. There are people who make music that emphasize the sound of a voice over the actual meaning of the words in a song, and Alfons is one of them.

Meanwhile “Joyland”, a melody tied by a solemn piano hook, feels pleasantly dated like an ironic rave party. That’s the promise of Trust: to play with the darkness and to wander through the underbelly, all with an affected sense of removal. In songs like “Bulbform” or “Rescue, Mister”, it’s entirely possible to get lost in the moment, but letting go is never a permanent state. Alfons’s set was sinister, hypnotic, and artfully so.

Alfons could have been mistaken for any other person that was out on the dance floor, loosening things up with his go-to signature move. Playing the raver, Alfons rallied the crowd into an insatiable trance with his cold, hard-hitting industrial vibrations.