9:30 presents at U Street Music Hall
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009
“The giant agaves outside my home only bloom every 20 or 30 years years. Being around that was a powerful lesson in slowness. And in tenacity.” Robert Alfons says that accepting a radical change of pace was key in making The Destroyer, his new album under the moniker TR/ST.
In the five years since releasing Joyland, TR/ST’s last full-length album, Alfons wrote and recorded songs in a farmhouse in southern Ontario and in Los Angeles—where he has relocated—and worked with an all-star cast of collaborators.
Maya Postepski, Alfons’s collaborator on the 2012 Juno Award-nominated debut TRST, co-wrote and co-produced six of the album's songs, and Alfons worked with co-producers Lars Stalfors and Damian Taylor to refine the album’s sound. But he found the key ingredient to creating the driving, anthemic songs on the album—which will be released in two parts; the first
on April 19, 2019 and the second in November, 2019—was patience.
“The environment I work in has always guided me. But it took a long time to submit to the kind of patience these songs were asking of me. I was getting glimpses of what I wanted to achieve with the album,” he says. “But it wasn’t feeling cohesive; things weren’t aligning in a clear direction.” Alfons realized it was a question of patience and perseverance. “My first two records were put out so close to one another that I think of them as one,” he says, “They just poured out of me.” With The Destroyer, the process was entirely different. “It was so much more careful. I found myself seeking spaces of absolute quiet; I needed them in order to hear what was going on inside.”
“Iris,” the first song Alfons wrote for the album, began to take shape near the end of 2014, just before Alfons moved to Los Angeles. He credits the city with contributing greatly to the album. “It’s this huge, polarized, frantic place, bursting with sound,” he says, “But it can also be lonely and alienating. In a way, that contrast became a kind of inspiration for the new work.”
“Iris” would end up setting the tone for what became a collection of 16 tracks. “Lyrically and thematically, ‘Iris’ characterizes what so much of this record is about,” Alfons says. “Sonically, it teeters between warmth, melody and exhilaration on one hand, and isolating, industrial hardness on the other. That was a contrast I wanted to play with from the beginning.”
Indeed, the first part of The Destroyer, which is comprised of eight songs, highlights industrial and dream pop influences on songs like “Colossal” and “Gone,” where Alfons’ knack for
Maya Postepski, Alfons’s collaborator on the 2012 Juno Award-nominated debut TRST,
Stalfors and Damian Taylor to refine the album’s sound. But he found the key ingredient to creating the driving, anthemic songs on the album—which will be released in two parts; the first
on April 19, 2019 and the second in November, 2019—was patience, shimmering sounds and powerful vocals are on display. The second part reveals a more mellow, intimate side of the artist. however TR/ST’s trademark sound, which has been lauded in outlets including Pitchfork, FADER, and NME, is present throughout.
Following Alfons’ first releases, The New Yorker wrote, "The songs are buoyed by crystalline drum machines and chilling synths, and capped with Alfons' forceful vocals, which alternate between a feminine falsetto and a brittle, witchy monotone." Though this knack for the unexpected stays strong with The Destroyer, the album "is much more emotionally tumultuous
than the earlier releases,” Alfons says. “It’s also much darker and more sincere.”
If there’s a theme that sums up the process of making this record, it’s the deconstruction of shame. “When I was a child, making music was a necessity for me in order to feel sane,” Alfons says. “It was a way to understand and overcome blockages I couldn’t necessarily define. And in a way this album was a return to that, to letting the music guide my growth, rather than vice versa.”
Alfons will follow the release of both parts of The Destroyer with U.S. and international tour dates throughout 2019.
Lydia Ainsworth’s third album, Phantom Forest, introduces a lush, complex dream world that the singer, composer, and producer created and inhabited largely on her own. She produced all the songs, and wrote and performed everything on the self-released collection outside of a re-imagined cover of Pink Floyd’s “Green is the Color” and two other tracks (“The Time,” “Give It Back To You”), which started as instrumentals written by Survive’s Kyle Dixon (who composed the Stranger Things soundtrack with his bandmate Michael Stein), to which Ainsworth wrote melodies and added lyrics.
Ainsworth, who’s relocated to Los Angeles from Toronto since 2017’s Darling of the Afterglow, explains that the collection revealed itself to her “as a play taking place in Mother Nature’s vanishing home,” aka Phantom Forest, and that she’s singing from three perspectives: herself, Mother Nature, and Greek Chorus. For instance, of the album’s opener, “Diamonds Cutting Diamonds,” she explains: “The Greek Chorus sets the scene, narrating and offering direction on how to enter Phantom Forest. It’s my hope that the listener will imagine the narration to be directed to them as well, as they begin the journey of the album.”
You’ll get a sense of this from the collection’s edenic cover art and the playful, pastoral video for the album’s first single, “Can You Find Her Place.” Its inspiration came from Ainsworth’s love for Italian Renaissance painter Botticelli’s 15-century masterpiece “Primavera,” an allegorical representation of the burgeoning fertility of the earth in spring. She notes: “The video features the Greek gods of the painting in a choreographed Baroque style dance.” Keeping with the personal feel of the collection, her sister Abby Ainsworth directed the clip.
In line with the classical and historical depths of Phantom Forest, Ainsworth, who holds a Masters Degree in film scoring composition from NYU and studied composition as an undergrad at McGill, notes that although the album might be considered pop, she approached it as an orchestrator. “Even if I’m dealing purely with synths,” she says, “The songs are like a score, each one an evolving journey. I love to use strings so I’ve included my string arrangements on ‘Tell Me I Exist’ and ‘Can You Find Her Place.’ I recorded live musicians on drums, bass, and guitar on ‘Edge of the Throne,’ ‘The Time,’ and ‘Floating Dream,’ and wove those live elements into my programmed elements.”
Phantom Forest is a beautiful, vast collection that mixes the historical and the hands on, with hooks about the apocalypse and people obsessively using face-recognition software to see what paintings their face match with, in search of some kind of connection. It’s a journey that holds up to close listening (and lyric reading) and to dance floors, but that can also exist on a purely emotional plane. In all cases, it asks that you listen, and take some kind of action.