Malory Butler sleeps with her synth, Crusher. Or, more accurately, Crusher winds up in bed with Butler a lot. “I usually fall asleep with her right next to me on my pillow, as I’m working on stuff,” Butler says over the phone, giggling slightly about her nocturnal habits. “Every night I go home after work and work on music, but that’s the fun part for me; working and working and working on it.”
It makes sense that Malory’s commitment to her music extends deep into the night. While many electronic and techno artists incorporate dark elements into their music, Butler’s debut EP—a five track self-titled collection released on GODMODE a few weeks ago—seems crafted to be an actual element of nightfall. Malory conveys the intensity, euphoria, and particular exhaustion of a protracted evening.
Askew keyboard notes and muted gasps open set the tone on “Dumdumdum”, before jagged synth and kicking bass pull listeners further into Butler’s world. From there, the EP gives way to increasingly murky production, crawling further into the wee hours. “Oomph (Part 3)” eerily quivers; a nightmarish voice floats through the pounding beats of “Boohbah”; and “Dah”, the EP’s standout and most melodic track, shifts between machine his and keyboard hum until the fluttering thrum begins to feel disorienting. The video for the song actually is Butler walking around a Brooklyn one night, with the images of the city constantly blurring, morphing, and distorting. “I don’t know how other people process music,” Butler says, “but there’s always something visually playing out in my head.”
The EP was recorded with Nick Sylvester, owner of GODMODE, who discovered Butler after she uploaded one of her sets onto Soundcloud. It was a simple affair, Butler explains. “I had my set done, and after we had to chop everything up and it was us making decisions, like where does the high-hat feel right, you know?”
Simply done or not, the EP is an amazing introduction, a precise burst of techno that ranks as one of the best of the year. And yet, if things had gone according to plan, Butler wouldn’t even be making music right now. For the majority of the first eighteen years of her life, she was committed to becoming a professional ballet dancer. “I guess I was a sort of child prodigy and kept growing in my classes,” Butler recalls. “I went to a lot of ballet schools in Miami, initially.”
Schools gave way to conservatories. At 19, she moved to New York. There, however, a sciatic nerve she had pinched a few years before abruptly ended her dancing career. “I had no idea what was going on; I thought I was dying. I couldn’t walk back then,” Butler says. “I figured it out and got treatment and was able to push through for a couple more years, but I think the stress of moving my life up here really did me in.”
From there, she spent a few years trying to figure it out what to do next. Time spent going to and volunteering at shows, including a stint at DIY venue Silent Barn, inspired her to try to learn how to use a synth, which led to her making music. Which led to her friends asking her to play shows with them, something Butler initially recoiled from. “I was really protective of my music, like ‘I’m doing it for me. I don’t need anyone else’s approval. I don’t want to share it with anybody.’” Laughing, she adds, “But now I play shows like once a week.”
The change of heart proved fortuitous. Butler wound up opening for electropop wunderkind Shamir on several of European tour dates back in May, an experience that was completely outside of what Butler had done before. “It was kind of incredible,” Butler recalls. “Kind of terrifying for me as well because I’d never left the country before, and going to Europe, that just blew my mind.”
As for whether Butler—someone who, until recently, wasn’t even comfortable playing her music in front of her friends—is prepared for the uptick of attention coming her way: “I hope so,” she says, that tiny giggle reappearing. “I have no idea. I guess it is really nice to get people’s approval and it makes me feel good when people come up to me after a show and tell me that like dancing to music makes them feel great things, like that’s huge to me.”
It feels right that the person who used to spend all their time dancing to music is now making music for people to dance to. What makes Malory’s debut so captivating might be its hypnotic quality; it makes people want to keep going far after their bodies have asked them to stop. It’s what’s heard at 4 am on a Saturday, leaking out of a venue as you pass by it, on that long walk home, into the night.