Roll The Dice In Dust(Leaf) Buy it from Insound
In Dust marks the second album from Roll the Dice, a Stockholm-based duo featuring TV and film composer Malcolm Pardon and Peder Mannerfelt, best known as Fever Ray cohort The Subliminal Kid (although the only thing the two acts seem to have in common is a drum sound – the echoey, artificial beat from Fever Ray's Coconut is also featured here on fourth track Maelstrom). As the sinister LS Lowry-esque artwork and the grimy, earthy title indicate, it's clear that the album's an attempt to create a soundtrack of wage slave ennui and, from the point two minutes into opener Iron Bridge where the bass kicks in onwards, it's a fairly relentless experience.
It may seem like the simplest method to achieve this would be to go for all-out industrial assault, but other than a few brief traces here and there (and the album's press release pointing out their shared fondness with Factory Floor for analogue synths) the genre's trappings are mostly absent. In truth, the clearest reference point – and one that neither band nor label shy away from - is the rigid, yet expansive structures and grooves of Krautrock. Elements of other mechanically-influenced music movements can also be heard, ranging from minimalism, in the constantly creeping and shifting piano-lines, to the film scores of Vangelis. And even inadvertently (albeit probably), dubstep (or post-dubstep, or whatever you want to call it) as the decaying synths of The Suck and Cause and Effect's cut-up beats aren't far removed from Zomby's recent output (although where Dedication was hyperactive and restless, In Dust is slow and methodical, and a lot more interesting for it).
In addition to creating the feel of overbearing machinery through sound – such as in the chiming at the start of the self-explanatory Calling All Workers or the moment where the steadily plodding body of The Skull is Built into the Tool leads into the rumble of Evolution, suggesting an image of anonymous labourers marching into the bowels of an incinerator – for much of the album, Roll the Dice also attempt to do so with song structures. Many tracks are based around simple riffs that gradually metamorphose and/or trigger other parts in reaction, as if they were aural Rube Goldberg machines and, like those overly-elaborate diagrams, even if the usefulness of In Dust is unclear (that being said, its emphasis on repetitive, pronounced rhythms makes it a great companion for the treadmill) one can't help but admire the artistry behind it.
It's not until the penultimate track, Way Out, that any light is allowed to enter - the gradual building of soaring notes and warm arpeggios suggesting that an end is in sight, although, despite the finale being fairly optimistic, (if anybody's ever thought of mashing up Kraftwerk with one of Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown scores, this is what it would probably sound like) the duo deliver it with a dose of black humour, titling it See You Monday, suggesting that after this brief respite, the whole ordeal will just start over again (and again, and again...). But while Roll the Dice's single-minded desire to evoke and capture the mundane and nightmarish may make In Dust sound like a rather joyless and difficult prospect, they fortunately still manage to include more than enough moments of bleak beauty to make it worth the repeat visits.2 September, 2011 - 06:07 — Mark Davison