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‘Operator’ review: MSTRKRFT balances melodic, aggressive tunes

"Operator" is the third album from the duo MSTRKRFT. Credit: Last Gang

THE GRADE B+

BOTTOM LINE Invigorating dance music’s more rebellious side.

The Canadian duo MSTRKRFT is no stranger to the poppier side of dance music.

After all, Jesse F. Keeler and Al-P remixed Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Kylie Minogue’s “Wow,” as well as collaborating with John Legend on “Heartbreaker” for their last album.

However, on “Operator” (Last Gang), their first album in seven years, MSTRKRFT balance their melodic side with songs that are far more aggressive and challenging.

The result is a bit of a seesaw, especially early on, as the duo moves from the catchy, elastic groove of “Runaway,” which even extends to the way they process the vocals to make them sound stretched and twisted, to the dark, noise-filled “Little Red Hen,” with its punishing beat that feels like a throwback to the heyday of industrial dance music.

In “Priceless,” they combine the two ideas, with guest vocalist Sonny Kay delivering a memorable melody with a sneering vocal over a groove that is both danceable and jarring like a fire alarm in the middle of the night.

All of MSTRKRFT’s juxtapositions make “Operator” a far more interesting listen, as well as a healthy reminder of dance music’s rebellious, envelope-pushing roots.

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