What exactly Raleigh Moncrief is going for on Dusted eluded me at first. The thought of how to outline this release has been circling around inside my head repeatedly for days, and I’m still at somewhat of a loss as what exactly to make of Moncrief’s efforts. In fact, it’s likely that, as time goes on, the prospect of me, as an individual, coming to some kind of thoroughly logical conclusion as to what the musical content — in all of its stylistic and contextual being — amounts to, in a succinct, web-worthy summary is growing exponentially less likely.
Case in point: when label Anticon recently dropped Moncrief’s track “On Feedback” on SoundCloud, my unsuspecting mind misinterpreted the opening minute as a hasting rehashing of B-sides. No shit. Go listen, go figure. Such timbral ambiguity is a far cry from the first few moments of “Lament For Morning” from 2011’s Watered Lawn or even his work with Zach Hill and Marnie Stern. Not that the former song is predictable or clear-cut, but it’s certainly logical while maintaining an interest primarily attributable to its opening vocal cut-up, which is still elevating and invigorating to this day. Of course, once the song progresses past that ill-fated one-minute mark, what at first seemed like elements unrelated and slapped together on some promo track surprisingly culminates in an gleeful soundscape every bit as effective as Moncrief’s earlier work.
With this experience, I had in mind some half-formed, easily malleable expectation of what this Dusted EP would illicit from me, as an attentive (and, fair to acknowledge, intentionally less Generation Y) listener. Moncrief explains: “Dusted is … about fucking with the parameters of what electronic music is now.” His approach to exploring (primarily) the forms associated with his selected genre is commendable and highly evident on the EP; it’s also apparent that, while Moncrief is making this effort to free himself from the established anatomy, there’s a concurrent interest in cohesion between components. This illusory use of materials bearing a modern sensibility, a relevance bearing not so much influence but referential intrigue from label-mate Baths and other contemporaries (Hudson Mohawke, Lunice), gives Moncrief a leg-up in constituting a well-rounded and familiarizing sound for this collection.
Bearing “On Feedback” in mind, the constituent elements present rear their heads again in altered figures on “First Person” and the title track, most noticeably with airhorn. As Moncrief explains: “Airhorn can be a very powerful tool, but largely, in contemporary electronic music, it’s a lazy cue. I wanted to flip it in a way I hadn’t heard, so I made it a feature — as a melodic and polyphonic instrument.” It’s plain to see this instrumental usage occupying his musical objective, as it does indeed expand the melodic and harmonic relationships by really butting in as an excessively present timbral force, eschewing those aforementioned unions to exacerbate a deliberately retailored sonic body.
Placed unassumingly in between these horn-led compositions is the pace-shifting “Everybody’s At The Mall,” an apt title (apart from the obvious mono-lyrical basis — “Everybody’s At The Mall”), that projects the listener in a surreal, floating world above the plaza. Despite its marked simplicity in content, the subtly-affected fragments coalesce in a fantasy beyond the subdued, materialistic objective of such places, yet they inhabit a nostalgic exuberance fitting for some serene, teen-drama experience — neither tongue-in-cheek nor irrationally dismissive. The resplendent quality of this interlude, as well as the shocking drop back to the previously unsettling and texturally dense landscape, stress Moncrief’s yearning for a dance-inspired, yet chaos-infused soundworld free of preconceived restrictions and obsessions.
Achieving this advanced dichotomy within a narrow space exhibits Moncrief’s tenacity for a unique accord between his instrumental focus while narrating a compelling musical journey. Indecisiveness still plagues the mind, and Dusted will likely take a further analysis to pry open and comprehend the nature of its composition — not that of the elemental, but of the conceptual. Its brief nature prevents one from summarizing or classifying in a mirror opposite of a typical album’s expansiveness, but that’s part of the absorbing nature inherent to this release — hence, this particular review opening with diffidence. There’s playful experimentation bearing a youthful abandon, but also an appreciable maturity concerned with artistic merit, purveyed through an involvement in the entire strain of conceptual to aural listening.