Here is a piece of unsolicited advice: don’t wait 20 years to get hooked on this band. The time is now.
For a long time Duster was the name of a band that seemed to be long lost in history. After two relatively successful releases at the turn of the century no one expected to hear anything from this Californian slowcore outfit anymore. Surprisingly they dusted off their cheap recording equipment a few years ago which led to an eponymous comeback record in 2019. Although there is nothing wrong with the quality of this comeback record it’s also a difficult one to digest due to the impressionistic movements. But no worries, new work will probably not arrive before 2040 so there should be enough time to make it our own. Of course we shot ourselves in the foot because on this year’s April’s Fools Day Duster surprise released their fourth record called Together. We now simply have no choice but to spend a few words on the band which was never really there but obviously is full of surprises. Surprises and fun are almost simultaneously linked together in our mind. Fun however is not a thing that comes to mind when listening to Duster. At forehand we know that their music is unhurried, subdued, dark, elusive and never fully cohere. So if that is your idea of fun, Together should be worth your while.
On opener New Directions we directly dive into sadness. As a simple guitar chord slowly moves forward and becomes thicker Clay Parton whisperly sings about past times and getting older. While this doesn’t herald a complete new course for Duster, it does seem the production is significantly clearer than earlier works. On most sections of Together Parton’s voice now floats above the music instead of behind dark slowcore chords. On certain tracks like Retrograde, the band uses a light low-fi riff to drift into an open space in which vocals seem to float around. At times, also for example on Time Glitch or Sleepyhead, Duster sounds languid and even made us think of the laidback works of Acetone. Indeed one of many other forgotten Californian bands from the mid-90s.
Nevertheless, Together’s fundamentals are still built from slowcore riffs that scratch other genres like space rock, shoegaze and grunge. Imagine a lone spacecraft that is touching down on a desolate planet. Well, on N the band delivers the ideal science fiction soundtrack to such an event. Teeth on the other hand is produced to be more up close and the universe is now tackled from the inside by Parton. In ghostly fashion he sings about being scared and feeling useless. Escalator and Familiar Fields musically differ but together showcase Duster at its best delivering a shoegaze sprawl in which elements of early Low, Grandaddy and Sonic Youth are easily recognized. On both tracks the noisy riffs are pretty mild and serve as a tension building background fuzz. Duster is not a band that charges forwards without careful consideration. On Making Room however they do pull out resonant guitars and a pulsing bass to the full and create some fierce wind-tunnel sonics. It’s the interplay between the sonics of the various tracks that make each listen to Together rewarding. Just remember that themes of melancholy and loneliness keep crawling up and down your skin or, as sung on the bleary Feel No Joy, “How small and sad this life is. These tiny restless thoughts. Time came and went.”
If you don’t mind sinking your teeth into the dark experiences of someone else, Duster’s second comeback album is a true gem. Sad it may seem, if you add up Together with their 2019 album you will have to admit that these guys seem sad but in the end still are content enough to create an impressive batch of interesting music.
Label: Numero Group, 2022
But it here: https://numerogroup.com/products/together
- New Directions (3:17)
- Retrograde (4:22)
- N (3:01)
- Time Glitch (3:54)
- Teeth (4:30)
- Escalator (3:59)
- Familiar Fields (5:12)
- Moonroam (1:27)
- Sleepyhead (2:57)
- Making Room (3:46)
- Drifter (3:58)
- Feel No Joy (3:57)
- Sad Boys (3:28)
- Clay Parton – multi-instruments, vocals
- Canaan Dove Amber – multi-instruments,
- Jason Albertini – drums
Review by Wander Meulemans // 051122