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I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, "Dust"

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cover image The last time I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness released a record, George W. Bush was president, Twitter was the latest social networking innovation, Burial was a new buzz word on everyone’s lips, and James Brown was still alive and touring. The Knife were riding high on the success of Silent Shout and Brainwashed readers were placing records by bands like Wolf Eyes, Comets on Fire, and Xiu Xiu high atop the annual reader’s poll. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness won some recognition that year too. According to Plan nabbed a spot in the top five singles of the year and “The Owl” nearly beat out Boards of Canada’s “Dayvan Cowboy” for Brainwashed’s best loved music video of 2006. Then a seemingly terminal eight-year silence ensued. Now the band has returned with Dust, as if nothing happened. Their lineup is unchanged, Ministry’s Paul Baker is still behind the mixing board, and the artwork is as austere as before. And though much in the music is also familiar, the group’s focus has changed. They cast a wider net on Dust. There’s more variety and the songs are denser this time around, layered thick with circular melodies and crisscrossing guitars.

Secretly Canadian

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness open Dust with “Faust,” a song they beat out with surgical exactitude. It’s fast paced, built on a thumping rhythm section, and driven by a simple guitar riff that winds in and out of the lead guitar’s meandering accents. The song twitches with energy, as if the band were just itching to play together again, but the performance is controlled, channeled into a concise, coolly played four minutes. “Come Undone,” and, to some extent, “Stay Awake,” feed on that same energy. A quick moving, tightly wound melody skips through the heart of all three songs, and on each the bass and drums add variety to the already rhythm heavy core. The lead guitarist extracts little hidden melodies from inside that wave of sound and spins them through the air, completing the illusion that these songs are all unspooling as they fall through space.

These are songs the band could have written in 2007 or '08, after wrapping up their tour for Fear Is on Our Side. They’re white knuckle rockers that burn with the same fire as “According to Plan,” but they are far more insistent, far less translucent, and far from the norm.

The rest of Dust courses down a surprising path, starting with “Heat Hand Up.” It’s there that I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness first switch to a rarefied, pseudo-romantic mode. The guitars space out and harmonize, the drummer sits back on his throne and relaxes, and the music suddenly turns diaphanous. “Safely” continues in the same way, adding xylophone and a humming e-bow drone to the mix. It’s a colorful, delicately played ballad that depends on texture as much as rhythm and melody, and it sets the table for Dust’s mid-album climax.

“You Are Dead to Me” floats on a blanket of distorted synthesizer loops, cut up vocals, and a series of long, moaning guitar notes, all sans percussion. The effect is like the one depicted in cartoons, where a character falls to the center of the Earth only to find that it’s a hollow, weightless ball. Faceless voices and shifting clouds of color hover in this formless place, but they never condense. Instead, the music evaporates.

That weightlessness infects all of side two. The drum set returns on “69th Street Bridge” and turns the song like a top, etching a circular figure into the music that reaches out to the guitars and synthesizers at the periphery and sends them turning round and round the multi-tracked vocals. “The Sun Burns Out” returns to a backbeat base, but the gleaming guitars almost snuff it out in a haze of harmonies, and closer “WAYSD” opens the album all the way up by putting the bass front and center with the drums. The guitars and keyboards decorate their slow, psychological crawl with dramatic bursts, but the rhythm plows forward undeterred, the air around it slowly escaping into the void.

Eight years is a long time for a band to go without a release. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness make it sound as though it were only eight months. Dust thrives not because the band made any quantum leaps during their sabbatical, but because they opted to make small changes instead, and because they learned to open their sound up without losing what made them so great in the first place.

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Last Updated on Monday, 03 November 2014 08:06  


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