When Russell ‘Rustie’ Whyte’s full-length debut Glass Swords arrived in 2011 it was less a breath of fresh air than a veritable gale force wind, infusing the super seriousness of some of the post-Dubstep, future-Garage forays of the time with a blast of impeccably produced bombast and unabashed cheese in equal measure. In retrospect, the album’s success along with the subsequent appraisal of his Essential Mix can be accredited, for better or for worse, with the explosion of instrumental EDM infused hip-hop productions, or ‘Trap’, that popped up seemingly everywhere in the year after, though with a few exceptions none really had the same sense of invention and playfulness that was condensed within ‘Glass Swords’. On his sophomore effort ‘Green Language’, the Glaswegian producer has attempted to defy audience expectations by offering a more experimental project, but at the cost of losing some of the more exhilarating qualities of his previous efforts.
The title derives from the name given to the language of birds, and while Rustie has expressed this as signifying his desire for his music to connect directly with listener’s emotions – without the mind interfering, a listen to the album also suggests a more literal interpretation. Birdcalls and cries can be heard on a few songs, not to mention the two flamingos that adorn the album art. But while this loose concept is nothing more than subtext, there can definitely be heard an attempt to devise an album that is more than the sum of its parts. This is perhaps in response to criticisms over the no holds barred nature of Glass Swords, which careered through its 40 minute running time, hardly stopping to take a breath.
While it’s predecessor had only a few vocal contributions here and there (one, AlunaGeorge’s version of ‘After Light’ arriving after the album’s release), to instil some variety in ‘Green Language’, Rustie has chosen to put the spotlights on vocalists more often. Rustie’s contribution to Danny Brown’s ‘Dope Song’ was one of the highlights from the latter’s ‘Old’ and the Detroit rapper returns the favour here on ‘Attak’, serving up what is undoubtedly the standout. This kind of production is Brown’s bread and butter at this point but his signature flow over Rustie’s frenetic production is still a thrill to hear and will surely become a staple on festival circuits, not to mention its current inroads on Billboard’s Emerging Artists Chart. The inexplicably uncredited Muhsinah also makes an astounding vocal contribution to the climax of the album “Dream On”, before the song strangely tails off without so much as a warning. Indeed, this is ‘Green Language”s main issue – none of it really feels quite like a finished product.
Redinho and D Double E seem like perfect matches for Rustie, yet both of their features come across as half-baked ideas rather than fully considered collaborations. The repetitiveness of “Lost” soon becomes irritating, while D Double’s uninspired refrain of “what goes up must come down” and lines such as “like the Twin Towers it’s gonna go down” is a disappointment from an MC who usually fills his verses with instant quotables. Gorgeous Children’s contribution on “He Hate Me” comes off as a poor Main Attrakionz knockoff, and while it is refreshing hearing Rustie showing versatility in his production when “Velcro” follows, probably the most classically Rustie sounding song on the album, it’s easy to want him to stick to what he does best.
Strangely, ‘Velcro’ and the lead single ‘Raptor’ serve as the only two full-length instrumental contributions to the album. The latter remains unconvincing – the transition from pounding Hardstyle to bouncing Trap serves as a reminder of Rustie’s genre-blending capabilities yet the lurching synth melody soon becomes tiresome. The remainder of songs on the album further this idea of sketches rather than fully realised works. While tracks like ‘Paradise Stone’, ‘Tempest’ and ‘Let’s Spiral’ show off the more versatile aspects of his production, they do not particularly strike out as anything more than passable interludes, actually doing more in halting the flow of the album just when it starts to gain momentum.
When ‘Green Language’ concludes with the beautiful but surprisingly delicate title track it becomes clear that the album grapples with the same issues as so many sophomore projects before it. There’s no doubt that ‘Glass Swords’ held a profound effect towards the creation of a new subgenre of instrumental Hip-Hop and it was to be expected that Rustie would choose a different direction on the follow up. However, in expanding his palette we are left with a frustratingly inconsistent and ultimately unfulfilling album. While Rustie’s technical ability is still on show, the album is missing the instant gratification and release of previous standouts like ‘Surph’, ‘Ultra Thizz’ or ‘After Light’. For new listeners, you may only be able to catch a glimpse of his full capabilities.
‘Green Language’ is out now on Warp. Buy it here.