A Troller is a thing. It is a monster. It is its own gender, its own species. It is menacing, militant, misanthropic, and probably totally misunderstood. But it has descended upon turntables for the second time after an initial cassette release, and so by now, here in 2013, it deserves some closer study. Should we make friends with Troller? Does Troller come in peace? Does that dude(ette?) on the cover look like (s)he’s fucking around? All questions begged by Troller’s S/T LP, though they are not necessarily simple to answer. Nor is an even simpler question like, “What is it?” Like the goths, like the punks and like the ravers, I will never fully understand Troller. Somewhere in between the three in style, or very possibly way the hell outside of all of them, Troller stands as an alien presence to an alien planet. Certainly not of our time, but not quite futuristic and not exactly retro either. What. Is. Troller? When is it? Why is it? I’ll try.
The self-titled LP from the Austin-based trio certainly has recognizable musical elements — drum machines, synthesizers, and voices — but each of these items is delivered in a unique way, mutated at the molecular level into a new form of slow-motion electronic cave-rave: a dark, subterranean underground world lit up with torches of streaking synthesizers that wallow in a sludgy slop of purple-green bass. The rhythms are deep, elongated and brooding, but also sliced up with sharp accents that propel the music with an exasperating forward motion that may be, nonetheless, necessary; lest the mix be swallowed up in the black hole it seems constantly to be approaching. As the bottom end drags Troller’s ass, swallowing the listener deep into an impending oblivion, the top end of the beat keeps the keel somewhat even, a rhythmic core that is pulled at the seams, stretched to the max like a drugged out dude spinning between depressants and stimulants. The overall effect, though, is one of extreme fugue. Troller is not necessarily made to be danced to; the beats have enough depth, but not the bounce. Troller, therefore, inspires something more like a metal-stance, clench fist raised, groin pronounced.
And if you haven’t already guessed, Troller is nothing without its atmosphere. From intimidating bass lines (look no further than opener “Milk”) and the ghostly synths that swarm in the periphery, to the drifting trails of sound on the backside of every backbeat and the half-dead vocals moaning their foreboding missives, this record hints that the band might be up for something like the making of a classic horror flick score, like Goblin before them. The almost comically intense amount of reverb is just icing on the cake, the twinkle in the camera’s eye, giving an otherwise dimly-lit aura a stunning sheen of transparent visibility. Peering in, you could even catch a glimmer of beauty, as in “Tiger,” which boasts a triumphant chorus of consonance to give an obviously minor-keyed melody the true feeling of victorious Major. Also of note is the band’s sense of dynamics, which isn’t so much an issue of volume control as it is intensity control. Truly amazing, the way the band can move from a verse to a chorus with a stunning difference in energy by simply adding or subtracting a synth line, or maybe just subdividing the bass hits. Things never really get any softer or louder, but every Troller track still manages to come with thrilling rollercoaster-shaped rides built right into their structures.
There’s a couple of problems, and they’re minor in the small scheme of things, bigger in the grand ones. First, although the album’s actual run-time is sufficient, at only six true-to-form songs, the record ultimately feels a little too short. Second, related to the first point, is the pacing. While the album does end on the band’s strongest number with “Peace Dream,” the track doesn’t feel like the end of the story. Hopefully this is only a hint that there’s much more to come, but with the way the record opens and succeeds in sustaining its compelling mystique, Troller leaves a rounded conclusion horribly square. As epic as things get on this record, to end with the climax and no falling action may be construed as a missed opportunity. Nonetheless, Troller, on vinyl, is a document that serves as an exciting entryway to not only a new great band, but potentially a new angle on electronic music altogether. All some lazy journalist has to do is come up with some clever genre title, and we could have the next Witch House on our hands. I’m not going to be that lazy journalist, but I’ll keep crossing my fingers, hoping that Troller remains what it is: that which cannot be accurately pinned or labeled. And so, perhaps for the best, the question remains unanswered to a degree: What is Troller? Troller is Troller, and I’m happy to leave it at that.