Sometimes you need to take a breather before moving forward. In the case of many artists, after consistently working on new music and touring said music, the toll this constant movement takes on your body and your creativity can be a huge detriment. For Robert Alfons aka TR/ST, taking a five year break between his 2014 release Joyland and his now two stellar releases from this year, Destroyer 1 and Destroyer 2, the wait seems like it was one that was extremely good for him. A true visionary in every sense of the word, Alfons has crafted two pieces of the same puzzle with these two albums and one that shows great emotional growth and maturity without sacrificing the elements that made the project so exciting to begin with.
Destroyer 2 kicks off with “Enduring Chill” and a sinister orchestral swell before revealing itself to be something softer and more emotionally visible than maybe what was expected. Even Alfons voice, which previously had taken on a gruff baritone, is more vulnerable here. The production is remarkable, step in step with the songs unguarded nature. “Iris” steps back into what some would refer to the Darkwave feel of the previous TR/ST releases. While that is somewhat true, nothing Alfons has ever attempted before has come off like a pastiche of a certain genre or scene. Even through all the eerie synths and pounding drums, his voice remains constant. A fragile beacon on the journey of the song. “Darling” follows this up with a lilting piano, not something unlike what you would hear from Nick Cave. The stabbing synths featured add some of the darkness back into the mix and by the time the full band comes in you basically have TR/ST’s version of a murder ballad. It’s so encouraging to hear this level of growth from a single artist. Alfons is swinging for the fences here, emotionally speaking, and connecting consistently.
The naked emotion featured in the instrumental first half of “cor” opens up into a angry synth and some really wonderful arpeggiated string bits as Alfons voice bubbles up from underneath the proceedings. It’s a really heavy atmosphere and one that, especially at this time of year, is so great to sink into. Album namesake “Destroyer” is more of a straight ahead band track, one with a lovely boy/girl call and response in the chorus and some soaking wet synth horns that add a ton of texture. “Shame” is a piano driven ambient affair that can directly conjure up the feeling of its name. It’s actually quite nice to hear how much live piano Alfons features so prominently over Destroyer 2. The whole record has a much more organic feel than he has used before and that helps make the more sinister elements of the record really stand out and adds that much more to the overall atmosphere of the album. Album highlight “The Stain” is a beautifully murky number with Alfons voice shining and shimmering up high above the beautifully rendered, almost orchestral feel of the songs instrumentation. With the skiffy feel of the drums, the song takes on a beautifully twisted version of a 90s trip hop song. Album closer “Slow Burn”, written with former TR/ST drummer Maya Postepski, is a wonderful capper to the journey of Destroyer 2. Perfectly combining both the organic and electronic elements the album engages in at different times.
TR/ST, and in turn, Robert Alfons don’t seem to concerned to trot out the same album time and time again and this dedication to the art form they engage in is so exciting for each albums listener. With Destroyer 2, he has crafted a beautiful and haunting record that is perfectly suited to the shorter days and longer nights of the end of year. It’s a reminder of what a strong songwriter Alfons is and one that creates quite the anticipation to see where his journey nexts takes him.
review by Adam Fink
1/6 – San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger
11/8 – Houston,TX – White Oak Music Hall Downstairs
11/9 – Austin, TX – Levitation
11/11 – Atlanta, GA – Terminal West
11/12 – Durham, NC – Motorco Music Hall
11/13 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
11/15 – Maspeth, NY – Knockdown Center
11/20 – London – Heaven
11/21 – Brussels – Botanique
11/23 – Bern – Saint Ghetto
11/24 – Paris – Le Trianon
11/26 – Amsterdam – Paradiso Noord
The Destroyer – 2 by TR/ST is now available via Royal Mountain/House Arrest