Assembly of Dust breaks free

Written by Regis Behe
Thursday, February 1, 2007

The cover art for Assembly of Dust's new album, "Recollection," depicts a rooster in the foreground, a quaint collection of New England-style houses in the background. Look closer, and there are flames sprouting from some of the houses.
Open up the jacket, and the entire village is on fire.
A political statement of some sort?
Well, no.

"When we gave art direction, we wanted something that felt authentically rootsy," says singer and guitarist Reid Genauer, who will appear with Assembly of Dust Saturday at Club Cafe, South Side. "(Something) that really enhanced the world 'recollection' and played to era of the 1800s."

While there's no hidden meaning in the cover art, "authentically rootsy" might be the best description of Assembly of Dust's sound. Formed by Genauer after he left Strangefolk, a Vermont group that toured in jam band circles, Assembly of Dust incorporates elements of rock, country, soul and pop. Definitely on the low-key side, the music percolates and grooves more than it rocks.

"We like it to be rhythmic," Genauer says. "I call it, sometimes, Motown with a Southern drawl. I've called it hick funk before, although it's not really funk; there's just a funky, bouncy underpinning to most of the songs."

Some of those elements seem to fit in with Genauer's tenure at Strangefolk. Assembly of Dust, however, is a conscious attempt to shed the jam band label.

"I have conflict about it, because on so many levels I respect what goes on in that scene," Genauer says, "and I was so deeply entrenched in it. ... Most, if not all, of the music that occurs under that umbrella is authentic, real music, more often than not played by good musicians. What it's not is trendy or pop culture, and so it is sneered at by the media."

Genauer adds that any genre that includes jazz guitarist John Scofield, Parliament Funkadelic, the Del McCoury Band and Phish is bound to cause confusion.

"How do those four bands represent a genre?" he says. "It's a misnomer, and I think it's something that contributes to misunderstandings."

The name of the band also causes some misinterpretations. Assembly of Dust could be mistaken for a cult, or a group of people who embrace the biblical "ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

There is a spiritual element that Genauer says transcends specific doctrines. If there's a theme to Assembly of Dust, it would be an element of lore that he tries to capture lyrically.

"When I look at qualities I want to emulate, there's storytelling, songcraft and analog production values, if you will," he says. "And there's an emotional quality from the early era of rock 'n' roll -- for me, primarily from the '70s -- that's missing in so much popular music today. There's definitely no religious affinity, but an emotional purpose, for sure. Look at Bob Marley, John Lennon, Neil Young, Jerry Garcia, Paul Simon -- the list goes on and on -- they're so different from the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. And I'm not knocking that, but it's so different; it's a lot more polished and finished and a lot less emotionally exposed."