Duster – Self Titled – Album Review
Written by Staff on February 3, 2024
Duster – Duster – Album Review by Joshua Reedy.
My copy: 2019 press by Muddguts Records.
19 years had passed since Duster’s last transmission, though their cult influence on independent music spheres had only grown in this gap. Perhaps a renewed interest in slowcore and shoegaze drew Duster back down to the Earth; either way, something was lost on re-entry (or rather it was never replaced from their excursion on Contemporary Movement). The trio disembarks again with a handful of moving atmospheres, but nothing alien enough to really turn heads and with too much of an emphasis on slow-moving repetition.
The vague psychedelic finish on “Copernicus Crater” does fit nicely with the nudging, dissonant guitar bend that sits front and center in the progression although the actual movement could use diversifying. Repetition is a key element in alternative music, but when delivered in such lethargic, dry gasps it can easily become a detriment as is the case with “I’m Lost.” “Chocolate And Mint” is more proof that they are best when elegantly courting dissonance amidst slow-burning feedback waves. There is an ache for something more unique tonally however, even when the ride cymbal comes to deliver a much-needed shift in focus. The bass is more adventurous on “Summer War,” leading dense, degenerating guitar strums.
The slow sensual ballad “Lomo” benefits from stripping down to an acoustic guitar, giving the vocals a chance to stand out for a change. There are spacey synth additions that help vary the mostly dry mood, but one can’t help but yearn for a wider range of sounds still. An electronic drum loop awakens on “Damaged” with heavy rhythmic guitar plunges although the atmosphere doesn’t approach the intrigue conjured on earlier career songs like “Stratosphere.” “Go Back,” on the other hand, creates a stark contrast between crunchy guitar texture and wailing overhead melodies that repeat – this persists for the entirety of the song, but at least sounds like an interesting memory fragment. Feedback wafts through the shy, stumbling guitar of “Hoya Paranoia,” with ghostly guitar pressure. Gone, however, are the days of any kind of rhythmic aggression whatsoever resulting in too homogeneous of an experience.
“Ghoulish” wears a darker, more abrasive mask and features some bittersweet guitar motifs but remains sleepy and hesitant. The steadier pace of “Ghost World” is nice but too little too late, where “The Thirteen” at least resolves the record’s flirtation with dissonance through a kind but detached progression.
The best feature of Duster’s return is a slick new production that helps elevate their guitar sounds to a new world. What’s unfortunate is that their songwriting and actual sound have not evolved much if at all following Contemporary Movement, continuing in a dreary twilight that only works well the first few times.