Venturing into a more authentic musical identity, the origins of Portland-based band Hustle and Drone serendipitously bookend their latest single “Dark Star.” After departing from keyboard duties from Portugal. The Man, Ryan Neighbors sought a different avenue and first cultivated the electro-pop project alongside Kirk Onstad. In the midst of self-discovery, which echoes from the band’s full-length debut, Holyland, the now trio (Andy Black and Ryan Moore) toiled towards a follow-up and fell short.
Taking producer Sonny DiPerri’s feedback into consideration led the artists to start over. And from the exasperated pool of beginning again and digging for a cathartic release, the result induced the sounds of “Dark Star,” and effectively the birth of a “new direction.”
Acting as their second single from their upcoming album, What An Uproar, due this October, the track strays from their first single “Stranger,” where mellotron loops and progressive-pop were prominent. “Dark Star” is carved from an electronic bed and wrapped in a darker sheet. The moody and disdained keys are the icicles that perfectly hang from the track’s gloomy conception. It emerges as an experimental, desolate sound bite, cuing a distressing line that broods. Opening to a modulation of polished static, Neighbors’ crisp, hum ridden vocals and lines ride the tangible guitar strums: “There’s a nightmare inside my head / There’s a dark wall inside my head / I’m fading away.”
The resonance of the bass allows the heavily subdued electronic production to breathe at the right moments, hinting at the stagnation that Neighbors sings. Each line is rooted from a “dark place” and reflects on past experiences with a little bit of “self-pity” according to Neighbors. “It’s very easy to allow yourself to remain stuck, wool over your eyes, and it just gets worse and worse,” continues Neighbors. “Sometimes you need to step outside of yourself and look at your situation. Is it really that bad? I need [to] remind myself of that constantly."
Ultimately, it isn’t right to simply throw “Dark Star” into the category of electronic. The industrial cut and self-deprecating, tangled lines creep from an experimental belly. Hints of alt-rock are heard from the overall composition and it just bleeds with a satisfactory ambiance that somewhat mirrors the attitude of 80s post-punk.
If “Dark Star” is the projection of the trio’s newly crafted soundscape, there’s a beautiful return of a distinct Pacific Northwest grunge sound that is extremely welcomed.