After seven years of singles, EPs, remixes, and tearing up of international dancefloors, Toronto-based Canadian producer and DJ Frustra aka Landan Brawley has released his debut album Second Lives. It takes listeners through an anonymous character’s journey of downfall and growth articulated through dark house music which amalgamates influences from various stages of Frustra’s own life.
“The whole theme of this story feels like a journey within Toronto. Self-discovery through its nightlife scene,” Brawley says. “A lot of the subject matter came from not putting myself first and having goals above my own health or self-worth. It’s not only a statement on wanting to step toward a better path for myself, but also a recognition that there’s been a lot I’ve had to learn from and make peace with.”
Brawley began experimenting with music production in 2009 in his hometown of Newmarket, Ontario, at the age of 15. After relocating to the United Kingdom in 2013, he began DJing in the warehouses of East London. He returned to Toronto the following year. Known for the disco and house-infused live sets he’s unleashed across North America and releases via Brooklyn, NY’s OKNF Records imprint, he has shared stages with artists like Malaa, No Mana, Massimiliano Pagliara, Justin Cudmore, Chrissy and The Carry Nation.
Brawley’s affinity for the French dance music of his childhood shines through on Second Lives, with sonic references to Daft Punk and blog house filtered through modern, gritty bass-house. Brawley and collaborators KillWill, Maddmon and RIFFA produced the album’s 10 tracks, being released through Universal Music’s independent distributor Spinnup, with analog devices, synthesizers, drum machines, samplers and Ableton Live.
Thematically, Brawley was inspired by the Toronto haunts like Eden Hall, the year he spent in the rave scene of London, England, reflections on drug and alcohol use and his experiences (both positive and negative) and navigating Toronto’s club scene as a queer performer. A poignant moment in the album’s intro samples a BBC documentary on sexual abuse in the UK music industry.
Frustra hasn’t always been comfortable getting so personal. “For a long time, my brand was fairly anonymous. There wasn’t always a face attached to the name so the music was faceless too,” he says, “but I wanna give a voice to all those queer kids who grew up as weirdos on the same music I did. I hope they can see themselves in me.”
Frustra’s Second Lives album is now available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Beatport, Bandcamp, Amazon Music, iTunes and Tidal.