Where To Start With... - July 21, 2016

Where To Start With... MSTRKRFT
by James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Where To Start With... MSTRKRFT

When the two members of Death From Above 1979 went their separate ways in 2006, bassist Jesse F. Keeler didn't take long to move onto his next musical venture, teaming up with Alex Puodziukas (who produced the duo's debut You're A Woman, I'm A Machine) to form MSTRKRFT and releasing a debut album, The Looks, that same year.

Trading in the noisy guitars for equally noisy synthesizers, MSTRKRFT''s debut displayed a frenetic sound squarely aimed at the dancefloor and a second album, Fist of God, arrived three years later in 2009. Their sophomore offering featured a range of guest vocalists that included appearances for Ghostface Killah, N.O.R.E. and John Legend, among others, but despite the Canadian duo's growing reputation things have been quiet on the album front ever since.

In the years that followed, the duo became known as remix specialists, producing their own takes on tracks by the likes of Wolfmother, Kylie Minogue, Snoop Dogg, A-trak, Justice and many more. Perhaps most surprisingly though, Keeler also reunited with his former Death From Above bandmate Sebastien Grainger to release a second album, The Physical World, in 2014, leading some to wonder if we'd seen the end of MSTRKRFT altogether.

But fear not; this week they're back with a third album, Operator. The first news of their return came in March this year with the release of brand new track 'Little Red Hen', followed in May by another single entitled 'Party Line', and it seems clear from both of these – as well as the rest of the new album – that the duo have taken a more stripped back approach here, dispensing with the extensive list of guests.

Instead, this time around it has just been Keeler and Al-P hunkered down in Keeler's studio, and even though it has been seven years since Fist of God, the album feels like a distillation of everything they've done before rather than a huge stylistic leap. The distorted synths are all present and correct, particularly on 'Party Line' and 'Priceless'. The real highlight here though is 'Runaway', an exhilarating slice of funk-infused fun that'll work equally well in clubs and at festivals. If fans were hoping that MSTRKRFT would pick up where they left off, they won't be disappointed.

You find the video for 'Party Line' below, beneath that we've picked five of the duo's best tracks from their back catalogue as a guide for the uninitiated...


'She's Good For Business'

Taken from their 2006 debut The Looks, this track is one of the highlights of their first album, featuring vocals from Metric and Broken Social Scene's Emily Haines. With its 808 handclaps, distorted synths and driving house beats, it's a very deliberate break from Keeler's work with Death From Above 1979, but one that's impossible not to dance to.

'Street Justice'

The Looks wasn't packed with commercial hits, but this is probably the best-known cut from the duo's debut LP. With heavily processed drums and MSTRKRFT's trademark noisy synth lines, this track sets out their stall perhaps more than any other track from their first record.

'Beards Again'

Released a double A-side single in 2011 along with 'Back In The USSA', 'Beards Again' didn't feature on either of MSTRKRFT's previous albums and is the only thing the duo had released since Fist of God up until now. It's quite different from anything else they've done, based largely around duelling guitar riffs that wouldn't sound out of place on an Iron Maiden record, but it's a banger nonetheless.


One of the singles from their sophomore album Fist of God, this track includes the vocal talents of John Legend and is probably the duo's best-known track. It isn't as hard-edged as a lot of their other stuff, but on an album as relentless as Fist of God it's a nice change of pace that exhibits a little more breadth to what they do.


Our final pick is another single from Fist of God, this time featuring guest vocals from rapper N.O.R.E., and it's probably our favourite MSTRKRFT track, based around the rapper's infectious 'All I Do Is Party' hook. This is what MSTRKRFT do best.


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