Russell E.L. Butler
Emotional Bangers Only (ep)
Russell Ellington Langstone Butler makes it pretty clear with the title there that in and around the emotional heft there’s some sardonic, self-deprecating humour. Want it clearer though? Well, how about this: More songs about depression, PTSD, delivery food, and revolutionary action.
Lol. But also cry-face emoji too, right?
The Bermudian-born, New York-based non-binary DJ and producer toils away on vintage analogue gear, big lovely washy synths and classic 808s, to deliver four lengthy, disparate pieces. All of them take me back to my years emersed in techno and house (20-25 years ago now) but in no way do these pieces feel dated.
Opener, I Haven’t Been Ok For A Long Time rides along on a naïve keyboard melody that is fragile but belies the dark depths of the title. Joyous loops of house-y handclaps and snares sit around the old-school atmospheric techno vibe and a killer synth bass-line drives the whole thing. Just so easy to lose yourself in this.
Infinite Depression Loop is next – another bummer of a title that results in a killer track, though it’s easier to decipher the downbeat waves here; actually, the broken-beat groove-displacement puts in mind the DJ Rels moniker of Madlib. And so of course I can mean that only as a compliment. Skittery hi-hats all slippery but never disco-y.
A bit of downbeat R’n’B and late-night bedsit soul permeates the groove and overall vibe of It’s A Flex TO Cry In Another Country I Guess. This might be my favourite track on the EP, a bit of chilled darkwave creeping in.
And since an EP is a bit like a business card – a showcase of what an artist can do, we close with Why We War Dub – a lovely, loping, washed-out dub mix of skeletal electronica.
I’m loving listening to these emotional bangers. Only comfort from someone else’s depression we can take is when they make art from it this good. It’s not just a cry for help, but we must remember that’s in there as well.