Glasgow-born producer Russell Whyte, a.k.a. Rustie, is one of a generation of electronic musicians who came up in the wake of dubstep’s emergence out of the U.K. dance-music underground and subsequent adoption by legions of American frat boys—a situation they responded to by adopting an aesthetic philosophy that disregards genre conventions and encourages a mix-and-match approach to styles. It’s a way of working that encourages creative ambition, and Whyte’s proven himself to be remarkably ambitious even by the scene’s heightened standards, blending old-school rave techno, contemporary American hip-hop, and knotty prog rock into a seamless whole.
Whyte’s exotic mix of styles has proven to be more popular than you might expect proggy rap-techno to be. Since the release of his 2012 album Glass Swords he’s found an audience in the mainstream EDM world that’s just as passionate as the one he has in the underground, thanks to tracks like “After Light,” which features vocals by Aluna Francis of the British R&B duo AlunaGeorge and big, ravey synths capable of filling the sports arenas that EDM festivals have made their home.
His new album Green Language (Warp) maintains some of that danceable energy on tracks like the appealingly noisy single “Raptor,” but overall it better reflects Whyte’s heterodox production skills than Glass Swords. “The first album was more of a process of sending [the label] demo tracks and getting their feedback,” he says. “I was sending a lot of weirder and more ambient stuff and then maybe they’d come back and say, ‘Put some more of your upbeat music on there.’ For this album I was given a lot more freedom and that led to it being more experimental, with a different sort of flow to it.”
He’s put that freedom to good use, creating an album that leaps not only from genre to genre but across a broad range of moods, from ravey hedonism to meditative minimalism. “Attak,” featuring Danny Brown and “Up Down” featuring London grime rapper D Double E fuse the kind of noisy sonic pallette he used on “After Light” to a framework of Southern hip-hop, while tracks like “Paradise Stone” find Whyte dabbling in ambient music, a result of his interest in modern composers like Steve Reich and David Borden.
Whyte describes the album as “non-dualistic,” with the dichotomy between “club music” and “headphone music,” long established in electronic music culture, being one of them that he’s trying to conquer. “I just kind of feel like music is a language that speaks to you directly,” he explains. “It’s flexible. You kind of never hear the same piece of music [the same way] twice, because you’re in a different state. Music has a direct effect on your emotions, on your state of mind, and that’s kind of what Green Language means to me.”