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malcolm pardon and peder mannerfelt of stockholm duo roll the dice forsake the tired 'two blokes, two laptops' setup that's become an entrenched feature of modern electronic music. instead, taking advantage of the chaotic nature of analog synthesizers, they summon up ghosts from the machine, crafting instrumentals that unfold with an organic, spontaneous logic. last year's self-titled debut proved an underground hit, its haunted pianos and pulsing electronics attracting fans like kieran hebden, caribou and fuck buttons and landing in 2010 top tens by tastemakers boomkat and phonica. their full-length follow-up for leaf takes their sound in stark new directions. compared with the warm, woody feel of their debut, in dust is darkened and contemplative. it still recalls the kosmische explorations of cluster and tangerine dream, and kraftwerk's heady blend of pop and propulsion, but it feels lived in and worn down, like an old 12-inch that's been spun many times, its groove scratched and erratic. recorded in sweden over the first few months of 2011, mixed in a remote studio in norway and finally mastered in berlin by stefan betke (master of electronic dub unit pole), 'in dust' is far more open and resonant than their earlier work, at times almost orchestral in tone, veering between stately grandeur and feral release almost without warning. but as with their debut, the real beauty of roll the dice's music is in minor, seemingly incidental details. mannerfelt's experience as a member of fever ray and pardon's background in tv and film composition have contributed to a sound that's packed with subtle flourishes: the ominous metallic texture in the background of 'dark thirty' evoking the mechanical grind of industry; the way somber lullaby 'the skull is built into the tool' distends in its final few seconds like the maw of a giant furnace. despite the sense of foreboding that hangs over 'in dust', it finds the duo's lilting piano lines more intrinsic to their music than ever before. during the first half of the album their warmth serves to further heighten the conflict between machine and humanity. as the record progresses, they gradually add light to its shadowy corners and eventually, on breathless closer 'see you monday,' offer the promise of redemption - even if only through acceptance of life's harsh realities.
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