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***Western Massachusetts musician STEPHEN PIERCE has used GOLD DUST as a means for exploring his next journey, slowly piecing together songs that held the fragile wonderment of the Grateful Dead, the weary beauty of Elliott Smith, the melancholic twang of the Byrds, and the otherworldly density of My Bloody Valentine while always reaching for hope and connectivity in a way that was universal. Neither the slow-to-form creative process of the first album nor the ambling pace often taken by Pierce’s thoughtful, dreamily damaged psychedelia points to rapid evolution, but that’s exactly what’s taking place on second album The Late Great Gold Dust.
The themes of isolation and self-doubt that floated on the first album have sharpened, and the language around these difficult feelings have taken on a new clarity. Pierce’s songwriting has always held a distant sadness, but with The Late Great Gold Dust, the melancholy cuts through, feels more present and alive within the songs. There’s a muddy narrative arc to these twelve songs, getting more harrowing throughout the album’s second half as screams echo in the void until an exhausted sigh that sounds something like acceptance rises out of the murk.
The Late Great Gold Dust steps into new dimensions musically as well. Pierce continues the layers of jangle, fuzz, and sunny vocal harmonies that made the first album equal parts tender and strange, but takes new risks with production, texture, and instrumentation.
Pierce played every instrument and sang every vocal on the first album, and while he still handles the lion’s share of the performances here, he brings in several friends to add new angles to the tunes: guest vocals, moody Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, damaged synth, and J MASCIS (DINOSAUR JR.) lending his instantly-recognizable guitar with a “Maggot Brain” level solo on “Larks Swarm a Hawk,” the track that closes out side one. Eloquent weirdo SEAN YEATON of PARQUET COURTS contributes a short story for the liner notes, narrated from somewhere between the natural world and all the psychedelic computerized kitchens of the future.