The Destroyer – 2 by TR/ST
More than ever before Robert Alfons has let his delicate, somewhat odd and ephemeral voice come to the forefront of his music. At no point is this more evident than the opening track, “The Enduring Chill.” It’s an apt title and in some ways foreshadows the entire album, in that it’s a lot more expansive and desolate sounding than anything TR/ST has done before. There’s something hauntingly emotional about his vocal delivery. In the slow, cinematic opening to the album, he pushes his voice higher in the mix than usual. It’s at these slow, more contemplative moments that The Destroyer – 2 sets itself apart from past TR/ST albums.
It’s been a year since Alfons released The Destroyer – 1, which featured the return of collaborator Maya Postepski, who co-wrote and co-produced five tracks on that album. For The Destroyer – 2 Postepski only contributed to the closing track “Slow Burn.” Other contributors on this album include Lars Stalford (Health, Alice Glass) and Damien Taylor (The Prodigy, Bjork), each of whom co-produced and mixed several tracks throughout.
While The Destroyer – 2 still has its danceable moments, the album’s greatest strength is its depth and moodiness. Tracks like “Darling” and “Cor” present the listener with lush soundscapes that evoke feelings of longing and melancholy. Even when things pick up a bit on “Destroyer” there’s still a sense of unease that resonates throughout. Alfons’ voice is vulnerable and hypnotic. It’s so well-suited to this sinister darkwave atmosphere. It’s a sound that stands off on its own; as isolated in genre as it is in tone.
For its delicate nature, The Destroyer – 2 is the perfect companion to The Destroyer – 1, which was a much grittier and uptempo collection of songs. If The Destroyer – 1 was a night at the club then The Destroyer – 2 is the come down the next morning. It’s morose and lonely, yet still familiar and self-aware. The pulsing of the bass and beat is still a fresh memory but the mood has turned completely, and we’re left looking at ourselves, wondering what we’ve become.
These kinds of risks need to be applauded; it’s exciting to see an artist try something new. Alfons has definitely opened himself up sonically on this album. He’s spent the past five years working on the songs we hear on the double album. It’s a monumental effort. He’s said himself that on The Destroyer – 2 he felt he was taking more risks, both musically and emotionally; you can hear it in the work. And it’s great to see that his emotions aren’t just communicated in the form of lyrics: “Shame” is a two-minute instrumental track that consists of slow, meandering piano notes struck so tenderly and so intently that it conveys perhaps the most emotional performance on the record without a single word.
In the anticipation of each note lives an expanse of expression and feeling. In a genre that’s often dominated by persistent rhythms and driving beats, the most daring thing an artist can do is slow things down to this extreme. Within that lull, all you have is time to think and reflect. It’s the antithesis of using music for escapism. It’s where The Destroyer – 2 finds its contemplative meaning and purpose.