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Saturday
Nov192011

Roll the Dice - In Dust

Leaf
To start with an oxymoron, Roll The Dice are hilariously po-faced. Indeed, I haven’t been tickled by this much portentousness since I stroked my chin clean off while watching Koyaanisqatsi. A late-night side project of one of Fever Ray’s producers and a soundtrack composer, if their dour electronic take on epic post-rock doesn’t raise the occasional ironic smile then check out some photos. The few I’ve found show a couple of blank-eyed Swedes who look like somebody just stolen the food they were going to feed their families with.

Luckily, the music within In Dust’s sleeve (faded, low-colour… of course) manages to rise above all these signifiers of crushing dullness. True, it doesn’t stretch much beyond the template of “simple piano phrases repeated, at length, over throbbing synths” as established on their eponymous debut, but this is very well done, with a gloriously spacious Pole mastering. And thus I’m prepared to forgive the occasional lapse into self-parody, such as the church bell tolling at the start of “Calling All Workers”. Call me a jaded cynic with a wizened sense of awe, but I laughed out loud; probably not the intended reaction.

The most value is perhaps to be found in some of the variations on the theme. Real live piano not being a common feature of the bong-load of analogue synth drone around at the moment, it was surprising to note that the moments when the piano fades into the background are among the best. Opening track “Iron Bridge” is a case in point, an engrossing, shifting synth piece; the good bits of Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack reimagined live on unpredictable equipment.

The middle third of the album is pleasant enough, but passes in a soporific haze of tape noise, dub effects, and vague clanking, overlaid with drones and more of that mournful piano. Ever so subtle, and perhaps ever so slightly boring, despite the best efforts of “Maelstrom” to inject a few squalls of atonal static.

Fortunately, as it ends the album pulls itself far away from a possible death spiral into a swamp of mediocrity, as “Cause And Effect” builds a strange, pulsing emotion from a miasma of hiss, massive acidic synths and a piano that could have come straight from Godspeed You Black Emperor. But the highlight is definitely the hypnotic “Way Out”, welding a faulty-ceiling-fan beginning to an endless, muddy trance breakdown which evolves over 11 wonderful minutes into an excellent piece of new-age contemplation, indebted to Emeralds and E2-E4 but still saying something new, and immensely uplifting after the darkness that preceded it.

Final track “See You Monday” suffers a little in comparison, but it does serve to bring together the by now familiar piano / synth / drone threads of the album to a satisfying conclusion - a satisfying conclusion which unfortunately eludes me in my own feelings about the album. It seems like it could have been a tour de force, but it isn’t. Though, what is? And the highlights of In Dust are among the best music I’ve heard all year.
Sam Stagg

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