By Jibril Yassin
EDMONTON — Rhythm of Cruelty have developed their own musical language. Formed four years ago from the ashes of beloved Edmonton punk band Geister, the duo of Ian Rowley and Brandi Strauss hit upon a striking combination of minimalism and efficiency when they began playing together, backed only by a drum machine. What resulted was menacing post-punk; the cold tunes project a harsh feel when propelled into the Edmonton air. That’s precisely why they self describe as “abstract” and “drywall.”
“Abstract because even when I listen to it, I don’t know how to explain it and I don’t like putting it under an umbrella,” begins bassist and vocalist Strauss. “Drywall because it was an inside-joke, a new genre of music that is yet to come. It’s a really horrible long story – it’s not dark or cold, it’s just a new way. It’s brutal.”
It’s an incredibly frank and funny description that just works. Rhythm of Cruelty’s latest LP, Saturated, follows their debut Dysphoria down the same brooding rabbit hole of abstract; seven tracks of post-punk that feature the band’s modus operandi in strong form. Rowley’s guitar slashes around the air; meanwhile, the combination of Strauss’ bass and an industrial-sounding drum machine achieve a feel that is not at all human. Dramatic departure it is not, but it is a telling sign the band has grown confident with their songwriting.
“I think now that we’ve been playing for so long, we know each other’s strengths,” says Rowley. “The songwriting is very fun and pretty easy. Maybe not easy but we have a good dynamic.”
“It’s a dynamic we’ve gotten used to,” finishes Strauss.
While both members are happy with their musical progression, they admit they are surprised regarding how far Rhythm of Cruelty has come. Rowley admits he always feels like Rhythm of Cruelty “is this small band – [but] maybe cause we’re coming from a place that not a lot of people know about. A lot of people have no clue where Edmonton is.”
Yet, how many ‘small’ bands could achieve notoriety like Rhythm of Cruelty simply through setting an incredible pace you could describe as sheer restlessness? In the score of four years, the band has released several EPs, a debut album with its follow-up recorded and released a year later, buffered with plenty of steady touring. Even now, Rhythm of Cruelty have plans for the future penciled in.
“We have a batch of new songs we want to record and we want to potentially tour again and continue what we’re doing,” says Rowley. “I personally love touring, I love being on the road and seeing new places and meeting new people. It’s super rewarding and I don’t know if it’s necessarily why I play music, but it’s definitely a big part in keeping me going.”
“You [have to] keep going,” stresses Strauss. “I don’t think you should have a standstill in music. You have to keep exploring.”
Rhythm of Cruelty play Edmonton’s Bermuda Festival on September 10th at Buddys Nite Club, alongside Physical Copies, Wares and Kevin Maimann & the Pretty Things. Bermuda Fest runs from September 9th to September 13th at multiple venues. You can learn more online at http://bermudafest.com/.AB, Alberta, Bermuda Fest, Buddys Nite Club, Rhythm of Cruelty