Published Dec 11, 2019After nearly 20 years in obscurity, Duster have returned with their signature fuzzed-out, so-called "tranq rock" on their third full-length record, Duster. In their return, the band have remained true to their loose and lengthy song structures of the late '90s and early-aughts — something epitomized by Capsule Losing Contact, a box set retrospective released this summer, which signalled their long-awaited re-emergence from the ether.
As with the band's 1998 LP, Stratosphere, Duster evokes vastness through use of crude, analogue equipment, metallic, drawn-out string etchings and sometimes unintelligible, depressed yet hope-filled lyricism. They're reliably messy in their production, creating a delightfully earnest, DIY quality, and when so many indie/alternative bands have been absorbed by "the monoculture," it's refreshing to hear musicians still suspended inside their signature sound, not experimenting extraneously for the sake of conforming to trends or employing new technologies.
Yet the record does remain inherently experimental. Clay Parton, Canaan Dove Amber and Jason Albertini each dwell on notes and riffs for longer than would seem interesting — but they bookend extended, built-up meditations with hooky resolves that implode like the slowcore equivalent of an EDM drop. The slow-chug delivery of "Chocolate and Mint" and "Copernicus Crater" are two such examples, both alternating between sour cynicism and breathless capitulation for a profoundly dynamic effect.
Their dynamic range is again represented in the differences between tone on the record. In its distorted transmission quality, "Go Back" is by far the spaciest song on the record (for all the spacerock purists out there), yet it digs aggressively, torturously at the mind. Conversely, the tropically inclined strumming of "Lomo" couldn't be more down-to-Earth for a song whose clearest intention is to be dream-inducing. Throughout the rest of Duster, the band continue to deal within the spectrum of subtlety, ranging from incessant beeping to indistinguishable reverberation, and in brief moments, they become vocally focused. It can be seriously disarming.
Often, cult favourites find themselves the subject of scrutiny when they emerge with new material after so long in quarantine. I suspect this will not be the case for Duster. With the band's integrity, commitment to their craft and immunity to the passing of time, they're sure to make their patient fans happy with Duster. (Muddguts)