If one were ever to envisage a space-time mapping of music — its many styles, genres, and subgenres — the Toronto-based pair who call themselves Trust would be somewhere between a sleeker, less grunge-influenced, more dance-able remix of KMFDM’s “Bargeld” and Front Line Assembly’s Tactical Neural Implant, with arguable traces of Lust-era Lords of Acid and Front 242’s “F-U-C-K” albums. Or, in more concisely descriptive terms, between the defiant (and perhaps naïvely oblivious) dance pop-leaning “industrial” that was briefly “in vogue” in the early 90s and the so-called “futurepop” of the late 90s: essentially a then somewhat fringe, marginalized quasi-pop form of post-industrial EBM and gothic synth pop of which acts such as VNV Nation and Apoptygma Berzerk were the vanguard. Fortunately, like other recent goth-inspired acts (Blouse, even Grimes), while the execution is near-flawless for what it’s worth, the source material is also transcended: Trust’s debut album, TRST, is a near tour-de-force masterwork of 90s-style industrial dance that also manages to sound remarkably fresh and novel, perhaps in part because of indie music’s ambivalence to the goth and industrial genres.
It’s more than a pleasant surprise that TRST, which features both Robert Alfons and Maya Postepski of Austra fame handling double duties on vocals and songwriting, sounds like the work of a music act fully formed and realized, musically and stylistically, especially considering the task(s) — or aim(s) — at hand and the margin for potentially disastrous error. Not only is there a coherence and cohesiveness of mood, tone, and style throughout, but Alfons and Postepski’s music also displays a brashly confident and calculated sexual aggressiveness and assertiveness, which reinforces it. One needn’t look any further than some of the album’s song titles to glean this (“Candy Walls,” “Gloryhole”). Luckily, however, Alfons’ vocals at times seem to borrow (successfully) from the theatrical, sleazy elegance characteristic of Stiv Bators and Rozz Williams, of Lords of the New Church and Christian Death, respectively. And when he’s joined by Postepski — or is that still Alfons? — the tension is palpable.
And yet, it would be a shame if any account of this debut failed to mention its most basic and essential feature: TRST is a fucking great dance record. While it is so much more than this as well, considering the negative connotations “dance” can have within much music discourse, it’s initially, at least, the album’s most notable appeal. Opener “Shoom” patiently and confidently builds a meaner, harder beat as it progresses, effortlessly recalling the best industrial dance you thought you’d forgotten about. And then there’s “Bulbform,” the first single that must have confounded listeners earlier in the year, unique as it was, and which — as heard on the album, now — nearly renders the previous track as conciliatory.
Elsewhere, the dense layering of synths in “The Last Dregs” is rich enough to evoke cyber-punk in all its retro glory, whether it’s Paul Verhoeven’s equally evocative Spetters or Heavy Metal in its heyday. Moving on, “Gloryhole” reaches back to the sonic glories of VNV Nation’s addiction to five-minute epics; “This Ready Flesh” and “F. T. F” sound off like early to middle-era KMFDM; and “Heaven” and “Chrissy” incorporate some Italo-disco touches. “Sulk” wraps it all up, driving and defiant, an appropriate closer to an album one wishes could go on for just a bit longer, already hinting at an inevitable mix of enthusiastic yet cautious anticipation for where Trust can — and probably has to — go from here.