Thug Entrancer's Arcology Is an Electronic Album for the Ages

Denver-based experimental electronic artist Thug Entrancer has a new album, Arcology, coming out on Friday, May 3, released by Software Recording Company, the imprint run by Daniel Lopatin, better known by his performance name Oneohtrix Point Never. The album represents a bit of a departure from previous Thug Entrancer albums, with the title hinting at the circumstances of its creation. An arcology, in the sense with which Ryan McRyhew, aka Thug Entrancer, employs the term, refers to the science-fiction idea of a completely self-contained environment, relatively free of the influence of outside forces. Think Olaf Stapledon's 1937 novel Star Maker or the various “generation ship” concepts of later science-fiction writers in which entire ecosystems are created within a spaceship meant to travel for millennia to reach a distant part of the galaxy.

The idea of the arcology informed the methods that McRyhew and his creative partner on the visual side of the project, Milton Melvin Croissant III (known to friends as Buddy), employed in generating material for the album. McRyhew intentionally cut himself off from contemporary musical influences in an attempt to write music that didn't suffer from the referential quality that runs through much of today's popular music. This involved an unusual step that may seem counterintuitive to many musicians.

“It was an intention to make a record that could have a broader impression if I took my identity out of it a little bit,” says McRyhew. “I think when you work with literal narratives, you're either turned off or turned on by it. In the sci-fi Buddy and I like, the most you can be is inventive with culture and language, and you don't have to rely on a lot of the frameworks we have on a day-to-day basis. You can be purely creative and go as far as you want to go. William Gibson novels are amazing to me because there isn't a precursor and you just jump into those worlds. He has words that aren't in your vocabulary but become so normative to his worlds, and you're immediately transported. We are focused on world-building, and if you take the humanity out of it, it's like we're aliens interfacing with data — that is the album. The record became a metaphor in itself because the album operates that way — a medium that is an arcology. Here is the data, and you can interpret it however you want.”

Croissant's video for “Curaga/Low Life” looks like something that could have come out of Gibson's cyberpunk world, but it also makes personal references to McRyhew's impending fatherhood and a miniature version of Rhinoceropolis, the DIY venue in Denver in which Croissant lived and where McRyhew often performed.

As a set of music, Arcology does in fact sound like little else in electronic music, making a map of its influences difficult to trace. Thus the record demands being taken on its own terms.

“It's kind of cliché, but I really wanted to make something that wasn't so heavily influenced by a contemporary sound,” concludes McRyhew. “It's impossible to divorce from that, but I strive to do that. Sometimes that's a toxic ideology because you ask yourself if you've made a record that doesn't make any sense for this time. I wanted this record to be relevant in ten years, but that's terrifying to think of that as a jumping-off point.”

Thug Entrancer with Golden Donna, SOLD, Docile Rotweiler, Dream Hike and Ryan Scannura
10 p.m. Friday, March 4, $10, Deep Club,

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.