From the magazine: ISSUE 93, August/Sept 2014
“I guess...” are two words that begin many of Rustie’s sentences. It’s a common linguistic tic, but it also hints at something at the heart of the Scottish producer’s sound: a desire to glide free from any musical notions that are too fixed and concrete. In the late 2000s, when the UK was awash with every possible permutation of dubstep and beginning to cycle back through house once again, Rustie, born Russell Whyte, made flighty compositions that cut through all familiar patterns like vinegar through grease. “The basic elements of it would be rap, trance, Detroit techno, post- rock and prog rock,” Whyte says of his music, though you’d probably have to listen on half-speed to locate those strains of its DNA. In the moment, all you can do is let the adrenaline of it all flow through you.
Born in Glasgow in the early ’80s, Whyte asked for his first instrument at age 10—a guitar—after inheriting his parent’s love of prog- rock bands like Yes and Genesis. A child of his times, he soon got into video games, but it wasn’t until he was 20, when his brother got a computer with the music program Fruity Loops on it, that he started producing. An early track, “Inside Pikachu’s Cunt,” with its starry-eyed, cartwheeling bleeps, reveals just how much the frenetic energy of gaming shaped his sound. While he says he was happy “just doing my thing” and putting out the odd 12-inch, his friends at LuckyMe—the label responsible for crystallizing Glasgow’s club- ready, hip-hop mutation sound—helped him graduate to Warp Records alongside fellow Glaswegian Hudson Mohawke, who has also released music on both labels.
Whyte’s debut album, Glass Swords, came out in 2011 and was immediately embraced as proof of a new strain of digital maximalism in dance music. But as he gears up to release his second album, it seems that for Whyte, it isn’t about jamming in more so much as a refusal to be tied down. “I like the idea that the tracks can be very open,” he says. “I try to throw in things that might make you think and keep your mind open.” In conversa- tion, Whyte is economical with his words, although there are moments when his ideas fall like rain, such as when he discusses the theme behind his new album. Its title, Green Language, refers both to a divine tongue that existed “before the human mind came in and muddled things up” and to the coded scripts that Renaissance-era alchemists used to ensure their secrets didn’t fall into the wrong hands. “Music speaks to you, but it’s not bound to one meaning,” he says. “It means whatever it means in the moment. The more you listen to it, you uncover different meanings and different messages.”
That fluidity flows throughout the album, which twists and wriggles like a shape-shifting spirit. There’s “Up Down,” a ferocious, tropical- tinged number featuring one of Rustie’s favorite grime MCs, D Double E; “I just love the character you feel from his voice,” Rustie says. Elsewhere, “Paradise Stone” appears at first glance to be a xylophone daydream. Step a little closer, though, and it sounds like an electrical fire is raging beneath. “I don’t really think about these things until after I’ve made them, actually,” he says, confirming his open-minded approach. “Then these sort of messages or visions come.” For Rustie, the purpose of music isn’t to be a butterfly pinned on a wall—named and framed—it’s to wonder where it might fly to next.