Review Summary: Showing results for "Duster." (Search instead for "Cusper?")
Listen to Duster once and I guarantee you'll remember their palette: even among contemporary pioneers of slowcore, the trio’s meandering arpeggios, steady drum patterns, mumbled vocals, and muffled production are the sonic equivalent of drifting listless in low earth orbit, a brand of psychedelia more akin to staring at the ceiling while floaters glide across your eyes than a harrowing, hallucinogenic trip. In that regard, it’s no surprise the Californian act’s classics Stratosphere
and Contemporary Movement
, proliferated to younger audiences thanks to the advent of streaming, struck a chord with a new generation of disillusioned loners who were probably either toddlers or not yet born when the band first performed. Reading the room, it’s even less of a surprise that the group reunited in 2018 to underground acclaim and have doubled their total album count since.
Before they did, though, the indebted Cusper formed an ocean removed from where their heroes once toured. Founding guitarists Keisuke Hamamoto and Kazuyuki Hamada hit it off over a mutual fondness for the subgenre’s vacuum-like ennui, and in 2017 they released their debut, an untitled, three-track EP which rather unabashedly aped Duster’s signature characteristics. Witnessing Duster’s return shortly afterward, I’d imagine the handful of years between then and now presented an existential conundrum to the budding Japanese act: should they abandon the emulation that brought them together by attempting to transcend tradition? Or should they stay the course, directly competing with (and thus at least to some degree, blatantly copying) the greats who’d inspired them to pick up their instruments in the first place?
The former would’ve been the more admirable path, but after absorbing Cusper’s patient full-length, I’m hard-pressed to assess their commitment as either a mistake or an irreversible turn. For better or worse, The View From Above
passes the litmus test of a band refusing to coast on autopilot, honing in on the nuances that made their niche inspiration such a unique phenomenon. The album’s range subtly spans up-tempo jams (“Hypoxia,” “Egg Hunt,”), fuzzy, droning instrumentals (“Scarlette,” “Dead Birds,”) and clean, twinkling passages (“First Sight,” “Tumbleweed,” etc.) with a track sequencing that emotionally coheres, if at the expense of wider variation. Though their ear for melody isn’t especially developed, their clammy articulation of ~the vibe~
is so faithful it’s often nearly indistinguishable from what spawned in the original zeitgeist, astray in the bittersweet stasis of solitude. Cusper’s first substantial transmission seeks to mimic, and that it does, reaching neither pitfall nor pinnacle. If the sullen weightlessness of Duster’s tunes strike your fancy, the bird’s eye view they capture by any other name may prove just as sweeping.