Exray’s – Trust A RobotPosted by Lindsey Scully
In a dystopian future, would you be able to trust a robot? Exray’s new release Trust A Robot invites you to contemplate it. The album is based on the dystopian writings and thoughts of science fiction authors Philip K. Dick, Syd Mead and William S. Burroughs. Exray’s do not emote heavy or dystopian tones in their lyrics instead their solemn vocals and shoegaze style lead the listener to feel the loneliness. The San Francisco duo gained a lot of popularity due to their song “Hesitation” being used in The Social Network soundtrack and are experiencing a lot of buzz with the release of Trust A Robot. Exray’s has several well-known musicians contribute to their new release including Chris Funk and Nate Query (The Decemberists), Heidi Alexander (The Sandwitches), Jean Yaste (Future Twin), and others. While the album title suggests an upbeat robotic styling, the actual tempo is just fast enough for the crowd to slightly shuffle to. Exray’s previous releases have been more dance-heavy while also reflecting their love for science fiction novels.
The first single off Trust A Robot is “Ancient Thing”, which prominently features vocal distortion, synth, bass, and drums. The backbeats are similar to trip-hop beats and the lo-fi vocals are reminiscent of Gorillaz. “Ancient Thing” is the best choice for Exray’s first single, it really grasps the listener and sets the dystopian tone of the entire album. The subtle opening lines of “On Reality” speak of the past and how the robots don’t wish to recall it, “No one speaks/ about the past/ No one here/ Wants it back/ Our work is done/ Finally/ Everyone’s on reality”, that make the listener wonder what dark secrets the robots are hiding. “You Can Trust A Robot” is one of the more upbeat songs on the entire album despite the actual lyrics which touch on the story of the last few robots in this world. The song lends its name to the album title and is one of the more catchy songs out of the other nine on the album. Trust A Robot closes with the surf-rock, drone inspired “Every Single Pleasure” which ends the dystopian album with the final line of “All time/ is over.”
The use of a drum machine, tambourine, and keys fit the lo-fi simplistic vibe that exemplifies Exray’s but is also where they falter. The shoegaze electronica duo has a consistent sound with the hazy vocals of Jon Bernson, which scarcely ever offer a hint of human emotion. Each song is homogeneous in quality but also constant in sounding alike. Between the vocals and the basic keys and drumbeats there is little variance in each song.
The monotonous vocals pairing with keys don’t bring an element of surprise to the listener; however, the lyrics are what make Exray’s stand out from others. “When You’re Lost” provides a fine example of how the slight change of Bernson’s vocal cadence can bring actual emotion into a song and make the listener’s ears perk up. Although their third release is based off of science fiction novels, Bernson and his cohort Michael Falsetto-Mapp conjure up futuristic songs without the robotic or alien blips. Trust A Robot is an easy-listening album from start to finish and provides the perfect background accompaniment to an evening full of stargazing, meteor-watching and even a episode of The Twilight Zone. The irony of the album name and the dystopian theme throughout make for an interesting predicament; can you really trust a robot or are they passively coercing the humans to believe so?