In 2007 and 2008, Rustie was untouchable. Though undeniably part of hoods-up U.K. soundsystem culture, he bypassed dubstep’s Jamaican influences and tapped into a neon, cracked-out, wholly original style of beatmaking. Seriously, go back and listen to his Modeselektor remix. It’s still shocking how he managed to pull it off: melodies coming out of nowhere, beat drops adding structure at unpredictable moments, pure weight mixed with nutzoid squiggles. Along with the techno fusion of folks like 2562, his tracks sounded like the future.
Rustie laid relatively low last year, releasing only the Bad Science single and an unremarkable Crookers remix. Since he debuted with Jagz the Smack, purple, wonk, and skwee (for lack of better terms) have all ripped him off, and hints of his style pop up in Night Slugs releases and the juke-work of DJ Rashad. Flying Lotus, a blunted brother-in-arms, has also obtained success. If there were ever a time for Rustie to come back, it would be now, and with Warp releasing his new EP, he has his most public platform yet.
And…he wiffs. Perhaps he felt hampered by just how out there his earlier material is, as Sunburst sounds like a retreat. Rustie now aims to "compose" "songs," rather than hit a groove. The opening track, “Neko,” employs a swaying, Wakeman-aping synth line over a Guitar Center preset tech drum sound. This is video game music, and not in a good way. It goes nowhere and wouldn’t work in a club, a first for Rustie. “Beast Nite” uses the same drum sounds, and “Hyperthrust” uses the same wank melodies. More than just being stale, the tracks indicate an identity crisis. Development shouldn’t sound this calculated.
Elsewhere, in “Dragonfly," Rustie reheats the non-stop stabs of “Zig Zag” and combines them with the escalating synths he used in his Rod Lee remix. It’s not bad, but he’s already done it better. The only track out of the five that succeeds is “Chew," which basically reverses the Modeselektor remix and lets a few melodic pings escape the mess.
Sunburst isn’t an embarrassment, but at this point, a return to the club might suit Rustie well.