Troller's self-titled on a Soviet cassette player

Luke Carrell

Listening on:

A ВЕСНА-П-401С, a USSR made tape deck that was exported en masse to the Ukraine and other former Soviet states. Its functionality (stop, fast forward, and play, with no rewind) and design are perfunctory and unique in their own right, with the other main quirk being the inexplicably large amount of open space that surrounds the cassette underneath the clear plastic casing. This particular unit was built in 1993 and the sound is comparable to most Walkman models from the era. There’s something rattling around inside the casing that I haven’t been brave enough to attempt to retrieve.

The band:
Troller is Amber Ormand, Adam Jones (also of SURVIVE, Thousand Foot Whale Claw, and Lumens), and Rosemary French. They’re firmly embedded in the treasure-filled pocket of the Austin music synth scene that’s been getting so much attention lately. Their self-titled tape is their first full-length release and is available on Holodeck Records.

The music:

Troller makes heavy, synthesizer led music that sprawls across a broad continuum of concepts, while never straying too far from a signature palate of mile-deep bass tones, vibrant drum machine, and meticulously tailored synth sounds. Six of the album’s ten tracks have relatively familiar pop structures and come full of affective and catchy moments. Slow tempos let the warmth of Ormand’s vocals and the immersive instrumentation fully soak in to form their doomy grooves. There’s undoubtedly a dark feel to it all, but it’s not a lonely darkness, and I think there are probably a few good couches in there somewhere. The remaining four tracks are untitled (or titled as increasingly long series of underscore symbols), completely synth dominated instrumental pieces with unconventional structures. These are no simple interludes and, though they do serve as thematic breaks, are too self-contained and fully realized to fit that classification. Ignore these tracks and you’ll miss the other side of what the tape has to offer. Listen close and you’ll discover that this album doesn’t ride the lines between genre or aesthetics: it crosses them back and forth and back again with an amphibious ease.

How it sounds:
Even though the bass response of the tape was more than adequate in my better pair of headphones, the music felt like it was itching and craving to be blasted out loudly. It absolutely requires either a quality pair of headphones or speakers for deep listening and/or slow motion head banging.

The full package:

Illuminated script, a very phallic use of an axe, and shiny black vinyl/leather dominate the aesthetics of the well-printed artwork. Even the A and B sides’ lettering are blown out with intricate embellishments. A spider encased in a crystal ball dominated the inside cover. After spending some time with the case, it’s hard to imagine the music without it.

Listening:

“Peace Dream” is equally suited to its role of epic closer for the album and introduction to what Troller can do.

“Winter” is Troller’s most pop friendly material. There’s a palpable sense of longing and hope that’s refreshing, especially by the time you encounter this track near the end of side B.

“Tiger” is already Troller’s most well known track and it’s easy to hear why this got so much attention last year.

Troller’s self-titled release is now available on cassette from Holodeck Records and for streaming and download on Bandcamp.

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