Free of Restrictions
Nov 06, 2015 Issue #54 - August/September 2015 - CHVRCHES Photography by Isaac Eastgate
Despite being far removed from current trends, LA Priest is remarkably in tune with them. Sam Dust lives in a field outside Welshpool, England, where he's so far from the city that wandering donkeys and the occasional peacock are his closest neighbors. Then, to make things more intense, he ditched the Internet for more than half a decade. He is, to say the least, focused on his craft.
Dust first rose to prominence when his synth prog band Late of the Pier dropped their only album, Fantasy Black Channel, in 2008 and fathered a cult fanbase, but they dazzled crowds only to vanish shortly thereafter. They couldn't agree on what to do next, so they took a silent hiatus that has yet to end. In the band's wake, Dust began working on experimental electro-pop under the moniker LA Priest. When one sound bored him, he began to explore another. "Instruments are there to make music on, so it doesn't matter if you play them upside down or back to front," he explains. "I think it should be ordinary to make whatever sound you can with them."
His debut full-length, Inji, sees him do exactly that. Dust nods to his contemporaries while still upholding his own voice, be it the Blood Orange beats of "Oino," the Hot Chip groove of "Party Zute/Learning to Love," or the Connan Mockasin lucidity of "Mountain." It's a curious exploration, given that he separated himself from the Internet, the very platform on which these styles spread like wildfire. "'Learning to Love' is cyclical [back to older electronic acts] because it was never really meant to be a song," he says. "I was trying to do something that I thought would tick all the boxes, but in my own way." And it does. The revolutions of Simian Mobile Disco are easy to hear, but so is his own explosive instrumentation treading the water between disco and dance.
Lucky for his listeners that he left his desk to physically explore countries outside England's border. Much of his sounds come from his travels to New Zealand and Greenland. There, he studied and recorded electro-magnetic frequencies, never intending to incorporate them into his songs. "I can't really go back and see what I would have created without that travelling," he admits. "When I'm writing music, most of the time, I'm staying quite still."
Despite Dust's time alone in his travels and at home, Inji recalls feelings of warmth and celebration. It was written for himself as well as those who will stumble upon it in years to come. "I always intended it as an oddity that would be picked up in a secondhand shop in the distant future and people would quiz over it, like, 'Who is this person? Where did this music come from?'" he says. "I like to buy a record based on the cover. The excitement and rush that I get from listening to music like that leaves me feeling like at that point I'm the only person on the Earth hearing that sound. My album is definitely more intended to be heard that way."
[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's August/September 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is its debut online.]
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