We live in an era with more “retro” themed bands than bands that are trying to do something new. It’s honestly a shame to see so many artists try to rip off a well-worn formula. Luckily, Austin has a scene for practically any kind of music, and several local labels to save us from this boring cycle of rehashing old tropes.
Story by Armando Maese
One of those labels is Holodeck Records, founded by Adam Jones, who is also a member of the local darkwave trio Troller. The band is back with “Graphic,” their first album in three years, and it’s just the breath of fresh air that Austin’s music scene needs.
Rather than copying the style of the more popular guitar bands in Austin, Troller opts for a more experimental route. This is a brand new take on darkwave, which, for those unfamiliar with the genre, sounds like a more refined and goth-influenced version of synth-pop. Troller does not strive to be accessible or marketable. They just strive to be good and true to their form, and they succeed.
The album’s opener, “Hellscape,” establishes an ominous and brooding tone without having to even say any words. It’s the perfect setup for the next song and title track, “Graphic.” Every layer of this track is phenomenal, from Amber Goers' gorgeous vocals to the pounding instrumentation. The entire album drips with suspense, feeling like a horror movie that grips viewers from the moment the opening credits start rolling.
One thing that shines through on “Graphic” is the amount of effort that went into making the album. It gives the listeners a sense of pleasure through pain, which is also expressed through the album cover. With such an emotionally involving body of music, the instrumental interludes are necessary to give listeners a breather.
Whereas some albums feel like a collection of tracks haphazardly thrown together without a sense of flow or direction, it’s can immediately clear that this “Graphic” was assembled with a careful thought process. The tracks transition into each other naturally, and each one has a similar aesthetic while avoiding any repetition or monotony. As a result, it’s best listened to all in one sitting.
The instrumentation on the second half of “Graphic” becomes heavier and harsher, swelling into an unstoppable sonic force. The album reaches its climax on the fifth track, “Storm Maker,” which can best be described as the slow dance prom song at a high school whose principal is surrealist filmmaker David Lynch. The students must also be able to perform an exorcism in order to graduate.
Tracks like “Storm Maker” might feel more romantic and soothing, but the album also shines on songs like “Sundowner,” which have more in common with sludge and doom metal than darkwave. The synth chord hits the listeners like a ton of bricks, and the double-bass work on the drums is unrelenting. Goers' ethereal vocals on top give the listeners the sensation of being dragged to hell, yet also finally being at peace.
Simply put, we need more labels like Holodeck in Austin. They aren’t afraid to experiment with their releases, and each project comes from a place of love. Nothing on “Graphic” feels fake or gimmicky, and this album is yet another great addition to their lineup. It’s the perfect choice for darkening your sunny day, or maybe even adding some spice to your love life.