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Music Review: Assembly of Dust – Recollection

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About the fourth or fifth time I put this new Assembly of Dust CD on, I thought my player was still on shuffle mode – surely this wasn’t a new CD; it must be one of my old favorites. That’s the kind of armchair-comfy feeling I get from this band. I slip into listening to it the way I’d slip into a well-worn pair of jeans. And for me that’s a good thing.

The press materials list a slew of classic acts that influenced Assembly of Dust, and sure, I can hear elements of various well-known bands in their music. The thing is, they’re picking up the right elements, and fusing them in tracks that make total musical sense. Put together those magisterial Garth Hudson organ riffs from The Band, close harmonies on the order of Crosby Stills & Nash, and a jazz-infused rhythmic groove that could have come from Steely Dan – what could be wrong with that?

Lead vocalist Reid Genauer’s earnest tenor calls to mind Jackson Browne, or maybe early Daryl Hall (there’s plenty of sweet soul music swirling around here too). It’s like an Americana melting pot, one that doesn’t ignore Detroit or Philly, either; I don’t have to learn a new vocabulary to speak this language. I don't have to break in these shoes before walking a mile in them.

As you’d expect from an album titled Recollection, several tracks suggest tales told by offbeat characters – bootleggers, junkyard scavengers, factory workers – but you don’t get coherent stories so much as rambling, cryptic reminiscences. The CD booklet prints the lyrics, but it’s best just to let the phrases resonate as they occur – or, as the track “Zero to the Skin” puts it, “Let the music carry you / You’re standing in your skin.”

When you hear them sung, it's rhymes and vowel echoes that matter, not narrative — like the hypnotic refrain of my favorite track on the album, "Samuel Aging": "Spells and curses / Bells and churches / Peeling bells / The silence swells / Well well well." If I had to write an English paper I couldn't explain what it means — but I don't have to write an English paper on it. It's ROCK MUSIC. Get over it.

And as you’d expect from a band named Assembly of Dust (think Dust Bowl, think dust-unto-dust mortality, think down-to-earth and back-to-nature), there are acoustic guitars and moaning pedal steel guitars and a wheezy organ, and a decidedly American inflection in Genauer’s vocals. But this is one versatile band: on tracks like “Honest Hour,” lead guitarist Adam Terrell gets downright country, though elsewhere (dig the opening of “Truck Farm”) he gets a little psychedelic fuzztone. Keyboardist Nate Wilson can do honky-tonky piano as easily as trippy organ solos, and he gets doggone funky on my other favorite track on this album, "Whistle Clock" (Wilson’s nimble riffs are one of the best things about this record, by the way — most of all because they never overstay their welcome).  

It makes me wonder why this album hangs together as well as it does – how do all these disparate elements fuse so well? It’s not a new sound they’ve got, and not a retro sound either. It’s just …

Oh, maybe I should just shut up and enjoy it. When I listened to it intently, in Diligent Reviewer mode, this record puzzled me. But when I put it on in the car and just drove? It made perfect sense. When I put it on in the kitchen to help me chop and dice, my other other favorite track, "40 Reasons", got me dancing around the stove. Life suddenly seemed good.

Recollection works the way music is supposed to – through the right brain. Take it out for a spin and you’ll see what I mean.

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About Holly Hughes

  • your wiki guide

    when was the Assembly of Dust – Recollection released? you say, it’s kinda’ old fave?

    But nice review, i would love to hear their songs…

  • Holly Hughes

    It just SEEMS like an old fave, but the CD is brand-new, released March 6, 2007. In fact, AOD is touring to promote Recollection right now, so you may be able to catch them in your area.