For local artist Caleb Strine, progress in music-making technology has meant the evolution of his own sound. Under his stage name Lost Masters, Strine recently released “Pork Belly Futures,” an album that makes ample use of all the powerful tools at a creator’s fingertips to achieve an intersectional and dynamic result.
“Pork Belly Futures” is the biggest solo release of Strine’s career so far. The album is built on a foundation of industrial music (a genre which applies the tools of electronica to dark, grindy hard rock) but topped off with rap-style lyricism. It’s a blend that Strine referred to as “industrial-strength trip-hop.”
How does one arrive at such a blend of genres? “It’s been a wild journey for me, musically,” Strine said. “I was a poet, and I had friends who were in bands. I was also in a choir, and they were like, ‘Oh, you sing, you should be in our band.’ So, I got roped into it, and it’s been an evolution of learning to write songs and learning what kind of creative voice I want to have.”
With “Pork Belly Futures,” Strine lays into wax his very own distinct voice, one developed both from decades of music passion and more recent socio-political concerns. His industrial music compositions and deep, shadowy vocals depict the world in which Strine finds himself as a sort of dystopia, but one which is inseparable from our own reality.
Take, for example, “This Isn’t Me,” a track Strine described as “robotic but soulful.” Sonically, it comes off like a series of waves, the steady, driving percussion helping to stabilize the swelling and shrinking of the synths. The lyrics are succinct and blunt, landing on the ear with a thud; they’re impossible to ignore.
A verse like “play the game / fake the smile / shake the hands / live the lie” invokes a social critique of the façade individuals have to put up in face of “the game,” which might be said to refer to society.
“With this album, specifically, it was me returning to what I got into music in the first place for: to write lyrics, write songs, that have more structure. And that all kind of influenced by what’s been going on the past five years or so,” between presidencies and social justice movements.
Over the past five years, Strine’s music took on a new role. “I felt like there was like a gap in what I was doing musically and what was going on in the world,” he said. Creating this album “tied together a lot of the elements that I’d been writing about before, which were capitalism, the American dream and a personal reflection on those things.”
It is, then, an overtly political album, one which addresses and expresses much of the anger spread across society. It makes sense, then, that Strine cites Rage Against the Machine as an influence; there is some similarity in their vocal expressions of frustration.
Returning for a moment to the album’s sound, much of “Pork Belly Futures” falls into the more-is-more philosophy, favoring “solid walls of sound” (to quote Elton John) to gentle, minimalist compositions. That was, of course, on purpose, as Strine worked on his sound, “getting thicker, and getting more textural and getting a lot … a lot more.”
While Strine records a few of the parts live (some synths and the vocals, of course), “most of (the work) is in the laptop.” That’s why the album sounds so tight, held together by the beats at the foundation of every piece (“when I was a little kid, I was a percussionist, so I usually start out with the beat.”)
As an album, “Pork Belly Futures” is one coherent mass, a dark ambiance and persistent anger running strong through every track. Strine’s lyrics are clear and to the point, an effective pairing with the gritty and shadowy music.
And on a track-by-track basis, there are a number of standouts. The opening and closing tracks, for instance – “Money Is the New God” and “Death Is the Beginning” – form a complementary pair of direct, demanding tracks. All in all, it’s cerebral stuff; listeners will be made to think.
Stream “Pork Belly Futures” now on Lost Masters’ Spotify page or visit Lost Masters on bandcamp.com. To see more from Lost Masters, visit Strine’s website at lostmastersmusic.com.
Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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