The Trigger Effect
Sean Payne’s Cyanotic has entered something of a renaissance period in recent years. Nominally an industrial rock act, the music on their last several releases has felt like a distillation of approaches and influences distinct from comparable acts and Payne’s own style-adjacent side-projects. New album The Trigger Effect follows in the footsteps of 2017’s Tech Noir, presenting a suite of punchy, energizing tracks that use samples, guitar and bass and programming efficiently and effectively, with Cyanotic feeling very much like their best selves.
A big part of the appeal of Cyanotic has always been their approach to creating programming and production based-songs that have the feel of Gibsonian street-level cyberpunk. First proper track “Information Overload (Same As Always)” has that in spades; an electro-industrial bassline driven by programmed drums that shift mechanically between full and half time and chunky, processed and reconstituted guitars. “Structural Hostility” and “Stay Asleep” fill out the record’s first half in similar fashion with some musical hotswaps; the latter uses thicker growlier bass that matches the chorus’ guitars in tone and texture, where the former invokes American coldwave with effective use of speedy kick-snare patterns and degraded textures.
The Trigger Effect‘s back half is where it shows a lot of the project’s depth. While “Keep on Keepin’ On” uses many of the same sounds as the preceding tracks, the way the spacey mid-tempo opening verse of the track builds to a blocky, transformational chorus is clever, a trick of arrangement that provides dimensionality. “And I’m Scared” is an instrumental built around a body music foundation but that layers on wistful melody via pads and whispery samples: Cyanotic reconfigured for a specific musical effect that evokes the album’s lyrical concern with post-millennial technological alienation. Speaking of lyrics, Sean Payne retains his usual processed and compressed presentation as vocalist throughout. One of the project’s historically weaker aspects is the lack of variety in that approach, although closer “Sit Back + Relax” has him singing in a more naturalistic mode that matches the song’s looser grooves and robotic funk accents.
The Trigger Effect is a good record, as much for what it says about Cyanotic’s dedication to development as for the songs themselves. Payne and bandmate Kevin Barron have zeroed in on the essence of the project and carved way anything extraneous, while still maintaining some flexibility and nuance. From a staple North American act active for more than a decade and a half, you couldn’t ask for more than that. Cyanotic don’t just remain, they push forward.