By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Some bands take DJ Shadow as a genre unto himself, tweaking instrumental hip hop on samplers and turntables. Others start with Sonic Youth, mustering a new patois from the old guitar-noise vocabulary. What sets Lateduster apart from either category, and what makes them so difficult to peg, is that they treat Sonic Youth and DJ Shadow (not to mention Autechre and Lee Perry) as natural extensions of the same genre: namely, Jimi Hendrix. And they wander into the woods from there, with turntables, samplers, a drum set, guitars--and no vocals. Their moody swings aren't mellow, exactly; they just step lightly in the wilderness.
Lateduster's chamber funk is easier to describe by mapping the band as a family tree, so let's begin with the news: Turntablist Andrew Broder is leaving the three-year-old band to focus on his better known DJ-rock project, Fog. Meanwhile, ambient electronicat Martin Dosh--the drummer in the live version of Fog--will remain in Lateduster (drumming and playing keys) along with erstwhile Sensational Joint Chiefs guitarists J.G. Everest and Bryan Olson (whose combined side dalliances include a jazz unit and a Fela tribute band). My hope, in mentioning all of these appealing projects, is to make the term chamber funk less off-putting. (I won't even lay postrock on you.)
There's no denying that Lateduster are composers, not jammers, who make music that works well on soundtracks (they have recorded one for a movie and one for a dance company). When taken together in a single sitting, the songs compiled on Lateduster (remastered reissues, plus two new songs) and Five Easy Pieces (all new) lend themselves to zoning as easily as a rainfall. But picked from the pile, individual tracks drill into your consciousness. Every tricky beat yields a graceful hook, every movement moves.
Where the Chiefs let their elegant soul numbers disappear into clouds of echoing dub (much as the Clash marinated pop in the dopesphere to make Sandinista!), Lateduster carve those clouds back into songs. There are insistent beats, but they're readily halted to let the guitars assert themselves, or let Broder scratch what sounds like the wind against a tin shack. His subliminal skronk will be missed.