The Tuss – Rushup Edge
Featuring a rather inconspicuous design, with ultra-minimal packaging (as is standard for certain Rephlex artists), The Tuss is a recently created project helmed by Brian Tregaskin, along with certain collaborators at points, including his wife Karen. This is the official version. Unofficially, there are many indications that, rather than being an incredible debut from a previously unknown underground artist (found, of all places, through a “talent search” of sorts on MySpace), it is instead created entirely (or at least heavily influenced) by the highly idiosyncratic and iconoclastic Rephlex label head Richard D. James.
Although the official MySpace page for Brian Tregaskin (even though more than one apparently exists) in no uncertain terms states that he is not Richard D. James, several facts would indicate otherwise. First, the MySpace page indicates that “The Tuss” members consist of not only Brian and Karen Tregaskin, but also Mike Podolak (http://www.michaelpodolak.com/), Reid William Dunn, Robbie Martin, and Richard D. James. So, at the very least it is heavily influenced by R.D.J., if not entirely created by him (which is entirely possible, given that similar ambiguous attributions were given in the Rephlex releases of Universal Indicator in the mid-90’s). Also, many note the fact that, on their previous EP “Confederation Trough EP”, there is a song named “GX1 Solo”, in which it is argued that a Yamaha GX1 synthesizer is used. The extreme rarity and cost of the now obsolete synthesizer (roughly seven to ten were made, each costing around $60,000 each), along with the fact that it is known that R.D.J. is in possession of one argues in favor of R.D.J. heavily influencing or entirely creating the music (Brian Tregaskin, however, counters that people are instead making too much out of song titles, and that there is no way he could afford a GX1). There is also the well-documented fact that one of the Rushup Edge tracks was introduced at an Aphex Twin gig in Italy, along with the usual Aphex Twin visual presentation iconography. Finally, there are conjectures made that, since Chrysalis Music is publishing, it is argued that, since Chrysalis has traditionally published Aphex Twin material, that “The Tuss” must therefore be a new pseudonym for R.D.J.
In the end, it does not really matter whether “The Tuss” is Richard D. James in disguise, a collective heavily influenced by the Aphex Twin, or Brian and Karen Tregaskin with numerous collaborators. Why? Because this is awesome techno “braindance”, simultaneously nostalgic and modernistic, with a polished sheen in it’s production. The music is perhaps the greatest indicator that this is the work of Mr. James, as anyone even vaguely familiar with Aphex Twin’s past material will be able to spot numerous similarities. Although it is not as polished as the “Richard D. James” album or as scattershot as “Druqks”, it instead sounds to me like an interesting combination of these works along with certain elements and structures found in the “I Care Because You Do” album (which is what I would consider to be the closest comparison to it, especially since I have not yet listened to the Analord series AFX released recently, which is apparently what Warp Records compared The Tuss to).
“Synthacon 9” is an excellent opener, featuring characteristic acid bass, an upbeat drum/cymbal beat, along with soaring atmospherics, vocoded vocals, and higher pitch synths (which remind me of the “Mt. Saint Michel + Saint Michaels Mount” song, for some reason). One of the reasons why this song is so good is the same reason why many of Aphex Twin’s songs are so memorable: an almost impossible attention to melodic progression throughout the song. Although themes are frequently repeated, they are very rarely boring or arbitrary-sounding, as very subtle permutations abound throughout the melody, auxiliary instrumentation, and percussive lines. “Last Rushup 10” is somewhat more intricate, with a greater focus on jaunty drum beats and syncopated bass rhythms. “Shiz Ko E” veers off into “funkier” territory, with house-synth stabs and continual hand-claps (supposedly created by Karen Tregaskin). It is also reminiscent to Windowlicker in many regards. Although enjoyable, it is unfortunately one of the shortest songs on the album, and I could easily have seen another one or two minutes of progression being appropriate and in order for the song, especially given the ‘cut off’ feeling towards the end of the song. “Rushup i Bank 12”, known for being introduced in the Aphex Twin performance in Torino, Italy in 2005, is also another standout. While having rhythms similar to “Last Rushup 10”, it is a bit more expansive than the other track, with a fluid (and slightly detuned) piano melody interwoven throughout the middle of the song. An unofficial music video exists of this track, featuring what appears to be edited films from the eighties starring several kids skating around a small city. Towards the end of the song, when the strange outro begins, the video takes a decidedly darker tone, as the protagonist pulls a gun on an unfortunate stranger after he and his friends sabotage a fire hydrant. “Death Fuck” (which is apparently the official name, even though Brian Tregaskin complained at one point that he would never release a song with “such a twat title”) is more reminiscent of “Druqks” highly complex programming (which is both it’s strength and weakness, to some). If you are pining for vintage “Aphex”, you might be put off by this track. Personally, since I am also a fan of the “Druqks” album, it gives the album needed variation in it’s short duration. Finally, the ending track “Goodbye Rute” ends the album on a calmer note (ala “I Care Because You Do” or some of the “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” songs with the original beats). A heavy bass line and minimal cymbal beats are paired with mournful synth lines, quietly ending an otherwise energetic album.
In short, this is simply one of the best techno/IDM albums I have heard this year. Regardless of whether you are not you are an Aphex Twin (or believe that he did/did not author this material), it is a well-rounded release that will appeal to many different people for different reasons. Along with the official press releases is the hint of more material from this group to come. Whoever is ultimately creating “The Tuss”, I congratulate them and eagerly await future offerings.