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AD372: Matt Robidoux - At Dust cassette

AD372: Matt Robidoux - At Dust cassette

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At Dust, the new album from San Francisco-based musician Matt Robidoux, feels both microscopic and as if he’s soundtracking his own pastoral realm. The follow-up to last year’s Brief Candles, is painstakingly detailed and spacious. The vibrancy of these eleven eclectic tracks is simultaneously unplanned and contained by loose compositional parameters. Like some of the artists referenced in his lyrics such as Chris Kraus, Banana Yoshimoto and Jacques Prévert, At Dust is at times surreal or experimental in its approach to reframe space and time. Robidoux’s music complicates what you expect to hear versus what vibrations are entering the crevices of your ears. Take the short and wiggling “Cloud Dance #7.” At first, there’s a crunching static, akin to careful steps marching across snow, then a rush of electronic scribbles like a high-pitched, warped popping of bubbles, some slippery strokes of piano, and finally the twinkle of birdsong and rushing water. In under two minutes, we’re led outside and the surroundings expand, collapse, and burst.

With field recordings, drum programming, and a vast array of instruments (brass, woodwinds, violins, guitars, drums, plastic saxophone, banjo, Gamelan instruments), Robidoux’s practice is an exciting warp of familiarity in multiple ways. Not only is he playing with the pop song structure, but the manipulation of space on At Dust is intimately personal. Some of the album is built off environmental samples from Robidoux’s grandmother’s house in Winchendon, MA, a now shuttered factory town. It’s his most electronic-based project, unearthing a level of granular detail in production that Robidoux had never experienced in his practice. “It employs in equal measure forms that are familiar and unfamiliar to me.”

Robidoux was visiting his grandmother who was ill “That time was also for saying goodbye to the house, where 3 generations of my family grew up. What I wanted to keep for myself from this place ended up being sonic footprints, soundwalks—through the snow and ice on a field behind the house, the sounds of a train tunnel as it began to thaw.” Other tracks on the record follow diaristic impulses: the feeling of procrastination in sending something to a friend in a mail, or the daily roll call of the birds on the power lines outside the window.

At Dust follows the intentioned and welcoming patterns of Robidoux’s past work. Indebted to the the DIY community in New England, a founder of several underground music venues, and an avid spokesperson for creating welcoming, accessible creative spaces—the Prepared Guitar Ensemble, in partnership with Creativity Explored, a visual art center serving adult professional artists with developmental disabilities—this album is built on various collaborations. Those involved include: Ky Brooks (Lungbutter), Matt Norman (Lily and Horn Horse), Cody Putman, Kris Force, Tony Gennaro, Adam Hirsch, Jake Parker-Scott, Mitch Stahlmann, and Tim Russell.

As an improvisational composer, much of Robidoux’s work is based on chance—an infinite amount of possibilities with only one impulsive result. But like many great improvisers, his work doesn’t feel random, but intuitive. Even the album title, which comes from a misprinted old postcard found at Adobe Books—a volunteer arts co-op gallery, bookstore, and an important meeting space in the Mission District of San Francisco Robidoux is a part of. The postcard said “San Francisco At Dust.” A chance encounter, something one might view as a silly mistake, Robidoux finds immense inspiration in. He says, “watching a sunset is making. that which is not being made collects dust. Dust is a fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground or on surfaces or carried in the air!” Robidoux is reframing not only the understanding of space, but how compositionally that understanding can be reinvented.
- Margaret Farrel 

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