The first track of the CD version of Troller‘s self-titled LP is called “Milk”; it’s nightmarishly gothic and genuinely creepy. Horror movie sound effects (or noises that remind me of horror movie sound effects) slash across a dreary landscape of synths and bass guitar, and after a slow build up Amber Ormand’s vocals – echoey, despondent, and ghostly – announce the arrival of an LP that is at turns darkwave-y, shoegaze-y, and eerily psychedelic. It’s a good and darkly atmospheric album by a younger Austin, TX band on Denton’s Handmade Birds label. (The original cassette and vinyl came out on Holodeck / Light Lodge/ Living Tapes.)
There are 10 tracks total, 4 of which are untitled dark ambient/instrumental pieces that thread together the 6 other songs with vocals, most of which have monosyllabic titles (“Tiger,” “Best,” “Milk,” “Thirst”). Although there is nothing quite as deathrock-sounding on the release as the opener, the rest of the LP is a multi-layered, lush journey through achingly sweet dark pop nostalgia (“Winter”) and early 4AD shoegaze-esque postpunk (“Best”). In fact, much of the music has a very Projekt Records “ethereal wave” vibe, a la bands like The Cranes – wails of tragedy and bliss awash in kaleidoscopic synths, vocals floating wraith-like above a melody anchored – barely – to earth by a drowsy, gloomy bassline. The Anti-Gravity Bunny blog called it “graveyard hallucination pop”. That’s not a bad description at all.
Amber’s vocal range is impressive – it is at turns solemnly disaffected and seemingly influenced by older deathrock bands, while at others it’s angelic and New Age-y. The production is such that all musicians get a fair shake, however, and while the vocals are not exactly buried, they are submerged tastefully into the texture of the overall music. The comparison to Projekt Records ethereal wave bands should not be all that surprising, perhaps, since the Handmade Birds label has also taken to re-releasing Lycia’s Cold album, another LP roughly in the dark and phantasmagoric genre that Troller’s music also explores.
The cover photo looks like something one would find on an 80s or 70s metal LP. In an interview with the Bowlegs website, Troller member Adam Jones explained the album artwork:
Both the front and back pictures of the LP are taken from an old magazine from the 70’s that has been out print for a long time. Our friend Chris King (from This Will Destroy You) has a great eye for this kind of thing, and he unearthed these little gems from a section of the magazine where guys send in erotic photos of their girlfriends. Yes, the person on the cover is a girl, and she is trying to look sexy. Her name is Angel.
As soon as I saw this photo I knew it was iconic, and we all agreed that it would be the image to represent the album. It’s a really interesting photo because of the androgyny of the girl and the axe. If you don’t know the context of where it came from, then it is very unclear whether it’s a she or a he, or if it supposed to look evil or erotic.
The ambiguity between evil and eroticism that Adam mentions is a good analogue to the constant tension between the tragic and the sublime, between dread (“Milk”) and beauty (“Winter”) that is evident in Troller’s music. Fans of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Faith and the Muse, early shoegaze, and Projekt Records’ darkwave stuff would appreciate this release; the LP should also have some resonance in the deathrock community, given the impact of the opening and closing (“Peace Dream”) tracks.
Troller have a Soundcloud page here, where their sef-titled LP may be heard. Troller also have a Bandcamp page where the LP may be streamed or purchased (see below). The CD can be purchased from Handmade Birds. Troller’s Facebook page is here.