Review : Dusted - Total Dust
PitchforkBrian Borcherdt will be spending this weekend sharing backstage catering with the likes of Skrillex, Simian Mobile Disco, and Bassnectar at Disco Biscuits' massive Camp Bisco blowout in upstate New York. And that's just another day at the office for Borcherdt and his band Holy Fuck, whose juddering synth-rock is just funky enough to land them regular bookings at EDM festivals. But it's a circumstance that would've seemed preposterous 10 years ago, when Borcherdt first settled in Toronto after moving from his native Nova Scotia. Back then, Borcherdt was first and foremost Leslie Feist's replacement in Toronto power-pop perennials By Divine Right, whose membership also once included a pre-Broken Social Scene Brendan Canning. But, having also launched his own label, Dependent Music, back home, Borcherdt proved to be the industrious sort who threw himself into all manner of recording projects and concept bands; Holy Fuck-- originally a one-off experiment built from effects-pedal loops and film-projector noises-- was the one that just happened to stick, and lent him a steady touring gig that took him beyond Canadian borders.
But throughout all this, Borcherdt has stuck to a rigid exorcise regimen, releasing solo albums of unflinchingly intimate and confessional lo-fi indie pop, the first of which, 2002's Moth, was written in response to the sudden passing of a close friend. The scepter of death-- and the cruelly fleeting nature of life-- has haunted Borcherdt's solo work ever since, as indicated by the monikers he's adopted over the years. In 2004 to 2005, he released two albums as the Remains of Brian Borcherdt; the name attached to his latest project, Dusted, takes that theme of post-mortem decay to even more literal, unnerving extremes....full text
ConsequenceofsoundHoly Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt has been working as an alt-country rocker for some years, recently forming Dusted with producer Leon Taheny (Final Fantasy, Rituals). Their debut LP, Total Dust, pairs Borcherdt’s twin sensibilities, combining haunting melodies with a simple, folksy vibe, for spellbinding results.
“Pale Light” matches Borcherdt’s vocals with the echo of an enormous, lonesome guitar, creating an effect that enhances both parts without ever making either sound less desolate. The aided drum machine beat adds a nice groove to the track, once more without upsetting the song’s emotionality, demonstrating a consistency that even some more seasoned outfits haven’t mastered.
While similar to the preceding song, “(Into The) Atmosphere” has a much more joyous, lively energy. Between the distorted “ooh and aww” vocals and that hybrid guitar, tweaked heavily by various effects yet still sweet and summery, it’s evocative and effervescent without falling victim to bland songwriting standbys. More than mere consistency, it demonstrates the importance and scope of the band’s musical choices.
Later tracks, specifically “Cut Them Free” and “Long It Lasts”, display what the band can do if they mute themselves oh-so slightly. The latter takes the giant-sized appeal of the previous tracks, and then shrinks and stuffs it into the confines of a “pop-rock” song. The end result is quaint, with joyous, wailing vocals sounding more approachable, along with the chug of a distorted guitar that’s easily digested....full text
DustedmagazineDusted’s haunted, fuzz-encrusted songs fall about as far as possible from Brian Borcherdt’s other project, Holy Fuck. Where Holy Fuck cranks intricate, interlocking grooves, Dusted nearly eliminates rhythm altogether. Where Holy Fuck is collaborative, communal, celebratory, Dusted has the hollowed out aura of deep introspection. Borcherdt is not alone in this project — the main difference between Total Dust and a previous solo EP called Coyotes is that he is working with producer Leon Taheny — but he sounds like a guy working things out on his own. His songs have a blistered, wasted beauty, like Neil Young but maybe even more like Scout Niblett, as fragile melodies are subsumed in a detuned roar of guitar.
Borcherdt wrote the songs for Total Dust while still on the road with Holy Fuck, recorded them minimally in multiple locations (one an unheated studio in Nova Scotia) using the most basic, and often damaged, equipment. The guitar sound, which is both ghostly and extremely rough, comes through an amp with partially broken tubes. The vocals are filtered through a portable amp that broke down during recording. Terse bits of rhythm — choked cymbals, tambourine and kick drum — punctuate rather than frame or structure the songs. Drum machines stand in much of the time for actual kit sounds, while a synth bass adds frayed rumbles of low-end. There are little surges and swoops of strings, used not for ease but for additional tension. The sound is often shrouded, shadowy and indistinct, yet far from interfering with the songs, this layer of grit and murk seems to make them more powerful.
Consider, for instance, the opening song “All Comes Down,” its guitar notes pitched so low and distorted so heavily that they seem to splinter and dissolve in your ears. Borcherdt sings as if from a cave, his voice clear but distant. He repeats a single line “When will it all come down?” in a resigned tone, over and over again. The song is exhausted, broken, yet it pulses with a gritty life. Clean it up and it might sound silly, but here, in its grimy, half-obliterated state, there’s a beautiful beaten-down strength in it. “Low Humming,” later in the album, is the spectral form of a folk song, rising out of the simplest forms of guitar picking, vocals loosely massed in unison and wreathed with mist and overtones. “Pale Light,” near the end, is pitched somewhere between Neil Young, Cat Power and Nirvana, its guitar faint and ravaged, dampened down to quietness but not entirely extinguished. “Property Lines” sounds like mid-1990s Silkworm in its flickering, occasionally flaring guitar chug, though overlaid with a ghostly, echo-swaddled falsetto chant. There is even a pop song, “Cut Them Free,” swathed in threat and distortion, but nonetheless breaking out into melodic exuberance....full text
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