Troller’s Dark Soundscapes Will Grow on You


I’ve been putting off writing this review for a long time now. Troller originally released their self-titled debut LP last year, but in a limited pressing only on cassettes (which is hard for me to take seriously), then on vinyl…then another round of vinyls, until this year it was finally released more widely. Ever since the Chronicle scooped me on reviewing Troller, I’ve been meaning to put in my two cents.

And yet, every time I sit down with this record, I’m intimidated. From the opening song, “Milk,” it’s filled with eerie soundscapes – thick, thudding bass, flowing synthesizers, and indiscernible lyrics. I haven’t been able to find a setting here in Austin that feels appropriate for it. Walking through the heat on the Town Lake Trail? Driving through the heat through the south side? Being hot anywhere, all the time? This is a dark, cold record that just seems incongruous with much of Austin.

And yet, it still hasn’t left me. Any time I put on M83 (which I do a lot), I think about how they’re just a shinier version of Troller. When I throw on the Cocteau Twins (which I do more than I ever realized), I hear the roots of Amber Ormand’s ethereal croon. And when I listen to Crystal Castles (which I should do more of), I think about how they just need chill out with the kids in Troller and they won’t be so intense.

It’s easy to see why Holodeck Records keeps having to order up more rounds of this witch house LP. It’s a grower. It pulls you in, and winds itself through your mind. The songs are dark, but not oppresively so. Every other song is a languid untitled instrumental that puts you into a trance, and every major track rises from the mist of the interludes to provide a remarkably cohesive album experience (something that you see less and less of these days). Troller know what they want to sound like, and they don’t deviate from it.

To get a sense of the density of this album, listen to the above “Winter.” Unexpectedly, it’s probably the poppiest track on Troller – a statement that illustrates just how dark this record gets, since this is still a pretty dark track. But in a world that has seen the rise of critically acclaimed synth acts like Grimes, Purity Ring and Zola Jesus, Troller fits plants a flag on their own turf. Like these artists, they are interested less in hooks than in arrangements, and they use synthesizers to explore the significance of context. But they are more patient and – at the risk of beating a dead horse – darker.

There aren’t a lot of bands in Austin willing to put out a slow, electronic record. Troller can be filed beside Pure X, Sleep ∞ Over, and the more patient tendencies of Knifight. If you’re willing and interested in this kind of music, Troller is a worthy listen. So turn off all the lights, open your freezer door, pack a bowl and put this on.

– Carter Delloro