August 30, 2010


Wearing all-black would mean that Douglas Martin would have to give all of his white V-neck tees to charity. That’s a lot of time wasted on American Apparel’s website.

When you learn about dunes in your middle school geography class, you are taught that most dunes are formed by wind-blown sand. Dunes— the rising L.A.-based band– in the silly, metaphorical sense, kind of formed the same way. From the demise of Austin’s Finally Punk and Seattle’s Talbot Tagora (on the list of my city’s more underrated defunct bands) respectively, singer Stephanie Chan and guitarist Mark Gershowak migrated to Los Angeles and started playing shows with drummer Kate Hall, fresh from the breakup of her band, the sorely-missed Mika Miko. Thus, Dunes were born.

Not long after, they were picked up by Mexican Summer, cited by labelmate and friend Bethany Cosentino as “the best band in LA”, and sold out the 500-copy pressing of their self-titled 12” (fret not, young consumer, Art Fag is releasing a Dunes 7“ tomorrow). That is, unless you want to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a seven-song EP plus shipping via Insound (in Insound terms, “shipping” means “you MIGHT get your vinyl delivered to you within two weeks if you pay enough money”), or wait until I’m ready to sell my copy on eBay, where I will likely charge the cost of your first-born child’s college education. In the limited-supply, high demand vinyl culture that Mexican Summer themselves helped cultivate, Dunes absolutely shows enough promise to warrant nerdy record collector dudes scouring record shops and online vinyl retailers for nineteen minutes of music.

Each member of Dunes brings their contribution from their past group and applies it wonderfully. Chan’s measured, Siouxie Sioux-channeling vocals, Gershowak’s simultaneously jangly and slippery post-punk guitar, and Hall’s driving, propulsive drumming are all used on Dunes to delightfully compliment Los Angeles art-punk’s recent fixation with mid-80’s goth and all-black everything. Next thing you know, these bands will be beasting off the Riesling. Any component of Dunes– but especially the wandering guitar figures that defined Talbot Tagora’s sound– seems like it could be the thing that sends the train flying off the tracks, and that’s what makes songs like the danceable “Balance” and the dusky “Everything Counts” so special.

“Closing In” shows the band at their most focused, with the weight of the song being carried on the forward-driving drums, and neither the vocals nor guitars lagging behind. Alternately, “Blue Fire” is a tune stricken by wanderlust, starting out as a jangly pop tune before taking a left turn into darker territory before being led to a cacophonous finish, all crashing drums and halfway-dissonant chords. If the three members of Dunes can do this much in such a short time, it’ll be very interesting to see what they step out of the shadows with next. Maybe a cape.

MP3: Dunes-“Handle”
MP3: Dunes-“Armor”

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