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Roll the Dice - In Dust

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Artist: Roll the Dice

Album: In Dust

Label: Leaf

Review date: Oct. 28, 2011

You can tell from In Dust’s opening moments that Swedish duo Malcolm Pardon and Peder Mannerfelt, a.k.a. Roll the Dice, like their movies. You can imagine them spending weekly sessions wihth Blade Runner and Escape from New York, absorbing those films’ claustrophobic atmospheres and dystopian futuristic settings, not to mention their celebrated soundtracks.

As such, In Dust is overloaded with analogue synth lines, warbles and effect. Rhythm patterns are muted, the melodies subdued, “Calling all Workers” opens with the sound of funereal bell tolls, and the whole album is permeated with an atmosphere of damp futurism, one of gloomy cities dominated by towering skyscrapers, neon advertising hoardings and grey skies.

None of this dread is new, of course, but Roll the Dice regurgitate their influences with aplomb. There’s the Blade Runner vibe, but also Brian Eno, Cluster and Klaus Schulze’s 1970s electronic drone explorations. I hear the recent ambient doom of fellow Scandinavians Deaf Center in Pardon and Mannerfelt’s judicious use of mournful piano chords, which they juxtapose against the cold electronics at the end of “Calling All Workers” and which launch the positively horrific “The Skull is Built into the Pool” in suitably minimalist style. In Dust is part of a rich tradition of darkly cinematic electronic albums, from Schulze’s Irrlicht to The Stranger’s Bleaklow, and as such there is much to enjoy in its despondent synth patterns and slowly shifting melodies.

You’ve also got to admire Roll the Dice’s doggedness, especially when you consider that these tracks were mostly improvised. Some, such as insistent opener “Iron Bridge” and the epic “Way Out,” build and build and build their moody drones, resisting the temptation to break the haze with a post-rock-style pay-off. And beyond the occasionally pap Vangelis hues, the real sci-fi influence on In Dust is surely Fritz Lang’s ground-breaking masterpiece Metropolis, in which oppressed factory workers become a face-less mass slaving away in the forges of a Gotham-like city for the benefit of a richer over-class. Titles like “Iron Bridge,” “Calling All Workers,” “Idle Hands” and “See You Monday” evoke the constant, robotic toil of the industrial underdog, and they lend the album a metaphorical depth that the music alone wouldn’t muster.

There’s a certain amount of reinventing the wheel on In Dust, and the claustrophobic sounds can start to feel cloying and maudlin halfway through the journey. But there’s still much to admire in Pardon and Mannerfelt’s bleak ambient explorations.

By Joseph Burnett

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