In his capacity as a member of Holy Fuck, Brian Borcherdt keeps his focus on buzzing, distorted and altogether loud electronic compositions. However, based on those thumping dancefloor jams, one might not readily reach the conclusion that the Canadian musician also has a background in atmospheric, guitar-based indie rock, having played in the short-lived By Divine Right, which also featured Leslie Feist and Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning. Nor would one figure that Dusted, Borcherdt’s solo project, comprises material that’s not squarely focused on guitar and voice, old-school troubadour style, but almost entirely diminishes beats into a minimal, supporting role. It’s a surprising change of pace to say the least.
Total Dust, Borchertdt’s first album as Dusted for Polyvinyl, casts aside big-budget production techniques and sampler exercises in favor of an organic, reverb-heavy group of songs. It’s a simple album, gentle yet not so polished as to cover over its blemishes or occasional bouts of ragged, distorted guitar strums. In a way, there’s something very classic about it, but Dusted feels very contemporary, occasionally recalling the baroque pop of Grizzly Bear or the lo-fi bedroom pop of Youth Lagoon. When Borcherdt strums the fuzzed-out opening chords of “All Comes Down,” he immediately invites the listener into an intimate space, his effects-treated voice somewhat guarded, yet still sounding frail and human. And when the arrangements grow just slightly larger, as on the upbeat “(Into the) Atmosphere,” Borcherdt picks up more momentum and energy, in this case sounding a lot like Jens Lekman’s “Julie,” albeit with more space-age sound effects.
As fun as it can be when Dusted lets loose and gets a good hoedown going, the most memorable moments are those in which Borcherdt treats the listener to some of his gentlest and most hushed sounds. “Low Humming,” consisting of little more than some simple guitar plucks and Borcherdt’s subtle croon, is one of the album’s greatest triumphs, in that it strips songwriting down to very minimal elements without leaving anything seeming unfinished. It’s a tricky balance, but Dusted pulls off low-key indie pop dirges in a way that Borcherdt makes sound easier than they are to pull off in practice. The upbeat strummers are nice enough, of course, but the ballads are sublime.
Stream: Dusted – “All Comes Down”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.