Why I Want To Join The Cult Of Rustie
With new album EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE, the electronic producer has created a secular gospel.
Last month, Glaswegian producer Rustie shared a link to an article titled Physicists Claim that Consciousness Lives in Quantum State After Death. It’s from one of those pop science sites; the sort of thing you tend to find yourself reading at 2am after falling down an online rabbit hole. The thrust of the article is that consciousness might exist outside of the body, and that if you could find a way to encode it as data and upload it, then the human spirit could—theoretically—achieve immortality. It’s a concept of the 'soul’ for the digital age, one that perhaps even non-believers can get behind.
It’s not unusual to see ideas like this pepper Rustie’s timeline. The Warp-signed artist used to be social media-shy, but lately he’s been communicating directly with his fans, giving away unreleased music and sharing his views on the universe. You can catch his tweets on mainstream media (“Take top news stories w/ a table spoon of salt”) and the occult ("magic is real, most people just don't believe in it cause they're under the spell") in between cute animal photos and gratuitous use of the prayer hands emoji. Twitter can sometimes feel like a nightmare machine, but Rustie always brings some heart-warming optimism to your feed.
Rustie’s third album EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE, surprise released last week, seems like the work of someone who’s not only pushing artistic boundaries, but is in a good place spiritually. Even the album’s Fox Mulder-approved title—an apparent wink to The X Files—hints at a belief in something beyond the traditional realms of human understanding. The track titles go deeper still: “Coral Castlez” takes its name from a stone structure in Florida that’s become a popular destination for spiritualists and paranormal believers, and “Atlantean Airships” picks up on a notable piece of fringe history that posits that some ancient civilisations had aircraft. As Rustie recently told FACT, the title EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE is “kinda for people who’re totally unspiritual. Even if you don’t believe in anything, just the fact that we exist and there’s existence, that’s enough in itself to be amazing.”
His music has sounded ecstatic before, but here it feels positively transcendent: a series of constant ups, reaching higher and higher with each trance synth and guitar solo. “First Mythz” even samples the call of a dolphin, a recurring image in the new age movement (the song itself sounds as if it’s reaching for a greater vibrational plane; rather than build towards a bass drop, it just keeps on exponentially building). It’s like listening to the joy of life itself—which, coming from somebody who’s been in and out of the hospital a lot recently, seems like a poignant message.
The producer’s music has been growing gradually more extravagant and serotonin-shot ever since his early singles of jagged rap beats and b-more mashups, reaching an apex on debut album Glass Swords in 2011. Its follow-up single “Slasherr” suggested that Rustie would continue along this trajectory. But his second album Green Language, released in 2014, was a far more muted and measured effort, torn between arty, expressive instrumentals and party jams featuring guest vocalists. Green Language does include some of Rustie’s best songs, but it was a new direction that he didn’t need to take—he’s since said he felt the project was too micromanaged by his A&R and management teams.
EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE, on the other hand, is free of any guest vocals. In fact, it’s free of guest anything: everything from the songwriting to the production to the art direction is the work of Rustie and Rustie alone, while any song on the album that includes his guitar work or vocals receives a “feat. Rustie” tag at the end. It sounds more honest to itself as a result, effortless where Green Language felt forced. It’s a return to form musically, and it’s cohesive in its ideas, too. Track names ponder global harmony (“Peace Upzzz”), divine beings (“Your Goddezz”), and other metaphysical dimensions (“New Realm”). Rustie constantly communicates the idea that there’s something bigger in the universe that goes beyond any individual human being, which is a huge leap for someone who once described himself as “not really very good at communicating at all."
Spirituality and the occult has long held resonance in electronic music, from influential industrial duo Coil’s ritual music to The KLF’s pseudo-religious symbolism—but it rarely sounds as energetic and explosive as it does on EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE. And when a lot of contemporary club music producers seem happy to present dystopias, pandemics, and the sounds of modern warfare, Rustie’s abiding positivity is refreshing: he actually imagines an alternative. If his online reading material on quantum afterlife is anything to go by, he even imagines life after death. You could argue that it's possible to achieve this immortality in a pretty simple, earthly way—by communicating your ideas through your music. Is it possible to download someone’s consciousness as an album? I don't know if I believe in that. But I believe in Rustie.