Many of indie rock’s critical darlings were floating in outer space in 2000. Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Grandaddy, and Sigur Rós released landmark albums that played like astronaut dreams, their sounds stretched between past and present, heaven and earth, day and night. Duster’s millennial offering, Contemporary Movement, was similarly inclined toward the stars, but the San Jose trio’s melancholic slowcore evoked earthbound gazing.
The album, Duster’s final statement before quietly fading away, is a soundtrack for sitting in midnight traffic and staring at the moon. Like a tired mind softly humming with a vague desire for whatever is beyond the mind, Duster’s unhurried compositions never fully clarify or cohere; voices hide behind dense washes of guitar, verses reach toward choruses that aren’t there, songs end abruptly before they can be caught, tagged, and filed away.
The upshot of Duster’s inexact magic is a kind of timelessness, and so the band’s reunion is not an excuse to revisit some bygone zeitgeist, to remember a time of softer skin and better parties and simpler needs. Like one of their own songs, Duster simply stopped when it made sense to stop, leaving listeners with a slim discography and a lingering sense of something unfinished, of something never meant to be finished. The band’s return feels more like the tail end of an epic cross-dissolve than a new beginning. This is where we were supposed to meet them again, in this place none of us ever really left.