Beijing’s post-punk outfit Re-TROS have released their most epic album yet, Before the Applause. Building on their past guitar driven post-punk sound, Re-TROS’ latest venture is a colossal foray into electronica. Stepping back from the heavy lyrical component of previous albums, the band retain their palpable punk roots and enigmatic weirdness, but now with relentless loops and keys thrusting their songs forward. The result is just, awesome.
Re-TROS’ embrace of heavy synthesised sound feels natural for the rock three-piece, as they gain notoriety for their ecstatic live performances. Musicians like Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter have always recognised the power of electronic beat machines to move and connect people. In Re-TROS’ case, the digital sounds serve as a missing link between the highbrow minimalism of experimental music, and the desire to enthrall the masses of a festival crowd.
Re-TROS’ latest release can be viewed as the band’s deep exploration of sound, outside the comforts of their post-punk routine. This expedition has been zealously thought out, with some tracks off the album already in existence on their live set for years prior. 12-minute tracks like “At Mosp Here” feature a ceaseless techno beat that grinds its way through changing landscapes of vocoders, cowbell, and keys. Bassist Liu Min’s vocals chant “My dying atmosphere/it never comes back”, as the song breaks away into a deep house groove. Highlighting this erratic sonic adventure is the track “Red Rum Aviv”, in what feels like an explosion of every single instrument that the band can physically play at once. “Sounds for Celebration” closes the album with a space rock anthem that sends the listener off on a spiritual farewell.
“Before the Applause”, upon initial listen, feels familiar. The references that can be drawn from the 8-track LP is staggering. From the nods to Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music” on “8+2+8” parts I and II, to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” on “Pigs in a River”. Eno synths, rabid Fugazi guitars, Bauhaus croons, the list goes on. While some may obsess over the futile argument for ‘original music’, Re-TROS instead smash together their musical influences into an evolving DIY sentiment that’s got an unstoppable momentum. Looking at the future of music now rather than reminiscing on sounds of the past, the album only grows larger with each repeated listen.