In 2010, the improvisatory trio of David Grubbs, Stefano Pilia, and Andrea Belfi came together in the studio to craft the patient, understated album Onrushing Cloud. The album arranged guitar playing by experimental indie figurehead David Grubbs and Bologna-based solo artist Stefano Pilia with gentle waves of percussion and translucent electronics from drummer/electro-acoustic musician Andrea Belfi. Though Dust & Mirrors is technically the second album from this trio, the four years in between recordings saw the players assisting each other on solo outings, collaborating in multimedia performances, and gelling together through regular live gigs into a more confident, expressive creature than presented on the often reserved studio creations of Onrushing Cloud. Starting with the nearly 15-minute-long epic of "Charm Offensive," Dust & Mirrors sees Grubbs' immediately recognizable angular guitar lines wind around Belfi's airier, less rigid playing and brittle syncopated rhythms from Belfi. The song builds into thunderous rock explosions, dynamically shifting gears to allow for passages of piano, bowed strings, and sheets of shimmering electronics before settling back into its original tense themes. Grubbs adds his idiosyncratic speak-singing vocals to tracks like "Brick Dust" and the sentimental skewed melodicism of "Cool Side of the Pillow," recalling his previous band, Gastr del Sol, at their most nostalgic. Pilia shines on the Robbie Basho-indebted open-tuned guitar playing of "The Distance, Cut," while the classic rock guitar tones and rolling drum figures of "The Headlock" see the band becoming a powerful unit, locked in on some otherworldly version of FM radio rock. Still rooted in the tenets of improvisation and avant-garde exploration that informed its patient predecessor, Dust & Mirrors feels meatier, more exuberant, and more alive.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas