Dusted - Total Dust
What it seems to come down to is a turf war between temperatures. You have your heat, and you have your cool. One warms, it burns if that's your thing, but it can become humid, close, oppressive. The other is preventative of this, refreshing, restorative, but it can slow your pulse and chill your blood so ingenuously that all of a sudden you find yourself numb, reptilian, half-awake. Call it emotion and art, passion and skill, humanity and robotics, whatever.
Canadians Holy Fuck used the methods of the former to create the latter, 'real' instruments bashing and bleeping out an approximation of electronic music. In their method of creation, and not to mention by way of a fiendish groove more addictive than speedballs before breakfast, Holy Fuck reached a sublime temperature, their figurative 'perfect bathwater', if you like (and even if you don't). On Total Dust, his first release under the Dusted moniker, Holy Fuck keysman Brian Borcherdt's frame of reference is perhaps more trad than his other band's locked-in organitronica (ya puke yet?), but he's handling those binaries just as well.
Over the last however many years we've been perhaps a tad overexposed to the mist and crackle of bedroom blurdom, to the extent that its implicit authenticity can lose effect. 'Dusted' here proves an apt descriptor – by and large, everything on Total Dust sounds as though it's coated in variable layers of soft grime. Lead cut '(Into the) Atmosphere' comes across like The (Broken) Shins, or folk or pop or both encased in the present-day plastercast of busted gear, keeping immediacy and by extension boredom at the other end of a bad phone line. While it's an aesthetic that's becoming boring in itself, Borcherdt has dialed in his tone as well as you'd expect from someone in a band who turned a film synchronizer into a musical instrument. The half-machine percussive snips and fuzzed-out vocals are all in fine order, but it's the guitars on Total Dust that really hit. Electric or no, six-strings grunt and burble like the stunted, sopping lush in the corner of your local venue, soaked in the sound of a thousand forgotten Americana acts and the warped wisdom of his years. This is appropriated perfectly by opener 'All Comes Down', a foreboding grumble over which Borcherdt wonders "when will it all come down?." Listening to him, it's easy to feel like it already has.
In terms of sound, then, Total Dust is deep and weighty enough to distance itself from the endless, faceless leagues of insipid fogjockeys throwing shit at Soundcloud to see if it sticks. But these songs are not just experiments in sound or tone; they are just how I have qualified them – songs, songs that don't just make you scrub your chin and quietly think "I wonder how he made X sound like X?," but songs that burrow into your stomach and dance karate behind your ribcage. By the time Borcherdt layers a couple of chiming notes over the clicky drum loop in 'Bruises', gently lamenting that "the bruises are so hard to cover," it's difficult not to be reminded of Mark Linkous' corralling of static and hiss around his own volumes of vulnerabilia, and the guarded, devastated sweetness found therein. And like Linkous, Borcherdt puts paid to any notion that music like this can only inhabit the domains of the shivery and frail. 'Cut Them Free' is as brash a swagger as something that's ostensibly 'one dude with guitar' can be, where the snarling 'Property Lines' is a bastard child of 'My My (Hey Hey)' and 'Out There', Borcherdt's keening whine a foil for the swell and roar of instruments at the song's close.
Total Dust's sublime temperature, its perfect pitch between feeling and concept, comes on the track that Borcherdt has named for his project, or vice-versa. At the close of 'Dusted's verses, he whimpers as pathetic and beaten as an unloved hound, kicked and launched out a backdoor, his voice rising to a quiet howl that drifts gentle into feedback and out again, Borcherdt's musical being dissolving into a diaphanous miasma of shining motes before regrouping and coalescing into solid state again. Call it rose-tinted, overdramatic, or just plain ol' wishful thinking, but I have never heard anyone become one with their music in quite the same way as that before. And from this we come to know that just as Borcherdt is Dusted, he also dusted, he's done, he's covered himself in dirt and it has served to keep him warm.