New American Hustle (formerly known as Zero Frequency), sees producer and multi-instrumentalist Ian Smith collaborate with a host of superb vocalists, amidst an array of hard-hitting and almost genre-free compositions; the likes of which pour through with precisely the level of grit, melody and rhythm required to lift you up and provide that perfectly alternative escapism that modern life craves.
Beginning with the tinny and raw steel strings and distortion of Harlot For Days, complete with a contrastingly smooth and emotionally gentle leading voice, followed up later by an explosion of electric guitar work, the album bursts into the room with weight and purpose; weaving around you this industrial and live-sounding performance with a subtly unforgettable hook. West Coast Refrain Vol 1 is off to an impressive start, and New American Hustle continue to mix things up as it progresses.
The album’s title track pushes on with that industrial rock intensity and volume, another gentle and distant vocal adds intimacy and reason. By now, you’re upto your neck in raw blues-rock and electronica united. It takes barely any time at all to pick up on the New American Hustle creative approach – the structure of each track, the juxtaposition of delicacy and weight, the poetic thoughtfulness of the lyrics, and the experimentation that skillfully walks hand-in-hand with a clearly experienced and knowledgeable take on musicianship. This is recognisable, intensely energizing, and often cinematic – all in a new and refreshing way.
Aphrodite Sandals brings a softer outer appearance, the vocal a little more up front, softer riffs raining down in an entrancing manner. The lyrics seem personal, heartfelt and longing to connect – all of which is reflected beautifully in the soundscape and the way it progresses and evolves.
21st Century Hi-Lo afterwards injects a touch of Southern Rock swagger amidst a pair of smooth vocals that lead you through a near grunge-like melodic development and a composition that’s all at once rhythmically engaging and creatively, expressively uninhibited. Superb guitar work – fast fingers and soul, passion, intention – a performance that intrigues and satisfies intermittently.
Ocean’s End is something of a stand-out on this record, a track that tips its hat to the likes of Portishead and Garbage all at once, leading with trip-hop sensibilities but again a heavy use of contrast as distorted solos and a relentless pace run wild in between moments of softness. A hypnotic and beautifully uplifting piece of music and writing. Artemis Descends follows and keeps that seductive vocal style at the forefront, leading with short lines and a quickly memorable melody that draws you in and holds you captive.
During the latter half of the album, Astronaut Song creates a uniquely ambient, synth-soaked moment of bliss that stands out for its contrast with what came before. Following a mellow introduction, that classic distortion and grunge-esque guitar weight and rhythm return to effectively ignite the underlying energy of the piece. Another gentle yet captivating voice takes you through the details of the song’s sentiments. A personal favourite, the chemistry just seems on point here.
Gonna Make War pours through with an Americana-style rhythm and flavor. Meandering RnB vocals strangely add a kind of early noughties Gossip-vibe – like a softer, mid-album Standing In The Way Of Control. Lyrically, moments like this provoke a deeper level of thinking – a process that’s perfectly well accompanied by the surrounding music. Another highlight, for sure.
In hindsight, this album grows stronger and more immersive as it progresses – perhaps it takes a moment to acclimatize, or perhaps the songwriting reaches newer and more revealing peaks as the band and the producer get into the swing of things.
Death At Sea is another highlight, stunning vocals that add dynamic and opposing moments meet well amidst a seductively gritty and passionate bit of guitar and drum work. A sensational piece of music and sound design that absolutely raises the bar in multiple ways.
To finish up, a smoother, shoulder-swaying vibe emerges for the story of Two Riders. A Zero 7 style bass contrasts with a retro synth and a series of somewhat jarring vocals that contrast melodically and conceptually with the mood of the music. There’s a sense of artistry here, a deeper underlying purpose, and you can’t help but listen and experience it for its uninhibited and carefree creative approach to expressing that.
Categorically a project you’re unlikely to find too many recent comparisons with. New American Hustle throw everything into the moment, fusing and bending genres and styles, yet somehow still maintaining a level of identity that should be easy to pinpoint as they continue to push with this music. Well worth a listen, inspiring and musically impressive on many levels.