In our dystopian future, when the machines take over and we humans are forced to live in abandoned subway tunnels, our new cyborg overlords are gonna have massive raves in ruined sports arenas, where they’ll blast Author & Punisher out of speaker stacks mounted atop piles of human skulls. This is ambient/industrial drone metal for Terminators, played on machines that appear to be just a few microchips away from bidding us “Hasta la vista, baby” and cranking the bass up till our internal organs turn to jelly.
Under his Author & Punisher nom de drone, Tristan Shone records and performs music made entirely on homemade instruments that look like a steampunk fusion of exercise equipment and a B-movie mad scientist’s lab. Percussion emanates from a massive side-mounted piston made of cranks and tank treads; vocals echo forth from gas masks and lunatic asylum neck restraints. Even an otherwise traditional set of keyboards gets mounted to a Tim Burtonesque set of pipes and levers that Shone maneuvers into place with the grim yet frantic determination of an axe murderer trying to drag a body down the basement stairs. It’s sort of like watching the Willy Wonka of industrial music; every song reveals a new mind-boggling toy, an Everlasting Gobstopper of skin-crawling noise and organ-liquefying bass.
At first it all seems a bit gimmicky, but there’s a raw, visceral quality to Shone’s music that transcends the machinery. He’s especially compelling at coming up with cool new ways to manipulate his voice. At one point, he appeared to be just throwing his head back and making angry faces while twisting the knobs of a handheld device that emitted a series of guttural roars; then it became clear that the device was attached to some kind of microphone or vibration sensor strapped to his throat, and those guttural roars were coming from him. At the end of the song, he thanked the whooping crowd, except it came out sounding more like a caveman grunt: “Hhhunku.” High-tech machinery aside, the components of Shone’s music are primitive: grinding drones, pounding beats, an anguished human voice.
We saw Author & Punisher this past Sunday night at the Echoplex here in Los Angeles. To see the rest of his January tour dates, click here.