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Stratosphere Review

by Francis Arres

Duster is made up of two members, C. Amber and E. Parton, with occasional help from their friends on drums and recording duties. Stratosphere is mainly recorded at their home on four track. At times, they sound like Pavement and other times like Seely with higher pitched male vocals. Stratosphere demonstrates their guitar-based focus, riding on the flow of duel picking guitar melodies. With many guitars switching dynamic roles and riding on tunings, Duster sounds a bit like early Sonic Youth. Bass and drums act as the bottom, while guitars playfully find their melody by feeding off one another, throwing notes back and forth. The four-track recording element brings a wonderful space warmth or humidity to Stratosphere, which keeps you flying in the air or floating in space. A hard task with a four-track recording is the recording of the vocals. For atmospheric affect, it works. The voice provides texture to the plucking guitars, but no lyrics are understood. They act as instruments. Along with guitars and vocals, many great manipulations with tape noise as background effects exist on Stratosphere. "Echo Bravo" is definitely the highlight of the record. A long build of noise and whiny guitars rev up the track with a steady drum machine beat creating stress and tension. When is it going to give? Then, it finally busts. Distorted guitars in a heavy breakdown find their cues. Vocals appear 2:45 seconds in to deliver a depressing calming element in the lazy delivery. The record may be a bit long for some listeners, clocking in at 53 minutes. Stratosphere is best listened to at different times; tracks may be isolated or the record can be divided in parts. Duster are at their finest when they play with dynamics. Many tunes have a loud and a soft part, but they are never predictable. The transition is always interesting or takes you by surprise.

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