Friday, September 18, 2009

Dustland - The Gentleman Losers


The Gentleman Losers
City Centre Offices.

SCQ Rating: 72%

Some albums jump out at you, grab your attention and get spun tirelessly. Others crawl behind you, catching eye contact each time you turn and step over it. That’s what Dustland has been these past few months; a record among heaps that I ought to review but due to its low-key mood I always hold off, expecting its soft nuances to hammer me over the head with understanding someday. Yet of these crawling albums, a tiny percentage will neither reveal themselves as worthwhile growers nor gentle disappointments, instead keeping a guarded middle-ground between listener and artist. As Samu and Ville Kuukka of The Gentleman Losers understand, a good dose of elusiveness not only attracts a more dedicated audience but eventually creates a bond, or at least a settlement, of acceptance with its listener.

At first you’ll simply fight to categorize it; for two months, I didn’t hesitate to think of Dustland as petal-soft post-rock for Air fans, serene with touches of old country. Upon closer listens I located its significant electronic fingerprint – its treated guitar tones, sampled vinyl static, warped keys. Now I shrug with an all-of-the-above answer, giving Dustland the reputation of a tightly-sewn soundtrack spanning Americana’s history with electronica’s chameleon-charms. How else could one identify ‘Wind In Black Trees’, which is an honest-to-god drone composition doted over by petal-steel? Or how about ‘Lullaby of Dustland’ and how it layers its keys and morose guitar as if the Finnish brothers are a slow-motion Tortoise? Once you attempt to bypass Dustland’s genre, you’ll find the real challenge is the record’s snail-like pace, which submerges its listener in mood more often than it leads them through. ‘Midnight Of the Garden Trees’ and ‘Pebble Beach’ adequately represent The Gentleman Losers’ specialty, that being their spectrum of prodding; as the former loiters in minor-key arpeggios and ambient electronics, the latter matches a similar prodding guitar to shimmering keys, echoed drums and cymbal rushes to dreamy effect. Between these two tracks, Dustland presents its choice of pace as respectively risky and lovely, but few could doubt they’re perfect accompaniment for quiet reflecting. I know that, personally, each time I hear ‘Ballad of Sparrow Young’, whether I’m watching incoming rainclouds or staring at a computer screen, I’m transported to a wild plateau far removed from my city’s concrete confines. With its clean guitar and subtle electronic soundscapes, Dustland aurally encompasses its own domain; it may not be an exciting or hyper-real place to live, but it’s at peace with itself. Although this sophomore isn't for everyone, The Gentleman Losers prove to be a wise pick-up for City Centre Offices.

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