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The project of Robert Alfons, TR/ST combines sparkling synth pop and grimy industrial beats into expansive songs filled with longing, lust, and despair. Dominated by sinuous melodies and Alfons’ deep, dramatic vocals, TR/ST plumbed pitch-black depths on 2012′s Juno Award-nominated debut, TRST. Alfons let more light — and dance influences — into 2014′s Joyland and balanced both sides of his music on 2019′s two-part album The Destroyer, but each incarnation of TR/ST delivers compelling electronic pop with a surprisingly wide streak of humanity.
TR/ST began in 2010 after Alfons met Maya Postepski, who was also the drummer in the like-minded band Austra. Comparisons to Depeche Mode and Joy Division began with 2011′s first two singles, “Candy Walls” and “Bulbform,” both of which were released by Sacred Bones. Both tracks appeared on Alfons and Postepski’s debut album, TRST, which Arts & Crafts issued in February 2012. Soon after the album’s release, Postepski left to devote her time to Austra’s growing commitments. Early in 2013, TRST was nominated for a Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year, along with Purity Ring’s Shrines and Grimes’ Visions.
In 2013, Alfons also began work on TR/ST’s first album as his solo project. Incorporating house and acid techno influences, Joyland debuted at number 12 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart when it arrived in March 2014. After touring in support of the album, Alfons took some time to reflect and experiment with his creative process. He started to make TR/ST’s third album in 2016, recording in Los Angeles and in an old farmhouse near Toronto with Postepski as co-writer and producer. In 2017, Alfons issued the singles “Bicep” and “Destroyer,” the latter of which featured a video choreographed by Ryan Heffington (whose work also includes the video for Sia’s “Chandelier” and the Netflix series The OA). These tracks provided a preview of April 2019′s The Destroyer, Vol. 1, which expanded on Joyland’s sound and marked TR/ST’s first release for House Arrest Records. The album’s more introspective second half, The Destroyer, Vol. 2, featured additional production by Lars Stalfors and appeared that November. ~ Heather Phares