This is the textile belt of North Carolina. Towns of boarded-up, ivy-swarmed mills spilling their bricks and shattered glass into overgrown lots, heat baking against rusted cyclone fencing around junkyards and shotgun houses of peeling white paint. Downtown there’s a few pallid shops that seem trapped in amber since the early 60s, and somewhere looms a Gothic high school that looks little different than the nearby industry. Graffiti-pocked trains churn past dye-polluted rivers and stretches of dust-shrouded pine woods. And overhanging much of this is a still sense of dread, an air of time shifting beyond any sensible pattern, of an empire coming to its end.
At the terminus of this ghostly route, on the border of North and South Carolina, stands the uneasy sprawl of mall culture and decaying factory glory that is Charlotte, one of our nation’s largest and fastest-growing cities. Here the whine of NASCAR rubber lingers like an incantation in the haze-clawed summer skies, as the commuters stalled on I-77 move at a much more frustrating pace. Here is a city with a sense of old slipping inexorably into new, the glass office towers of multinational banking firms overhanging the nearby ruins of an abandoned Christian-themed amusement park, and block after block of trim ranch homes and collapsing antebellum mansions alike. The Queen City emerging from a chrysalis.
It is in this uneasy tension that Charlotte darktronica duo Dor mine their tarnished gold and peddle their wares. This music is an uneasy collection of grayscale power-grid buzzings and restless, churning machine beats. Their latest, the aptly titled grey, north carolina, pushes further into wooded ambient territory from the more dance-focused thrust of their older work, and it’s their most accomplished and compelling release in a long line of accomplished and compelling releases. All you need to know about the sound of this album is contained in the cover image: a discarded sofa at the edge of dark and haunted trees, bathed in the nighttime glow of a pair of headlights on a dirt road. The story unfolds of its own accord.
Pieces like the all-too-brief intro “Wake”, “You Won’t Remember”, and the brilliantly crushing centerpiece “Plane Down Over Lake James” give you that goosebumpy Constellation/Montreal corroded tingle, while “Automat” crosses uneasily into forbidden Vatican Shadow territory just after midnight along the border. “Shoreline” and “Standing, Waiting” may initially come on like the Ghosts Of Hexagon Sun Past, but there’s a charcoal blackness (and eerie blankness) to these pieces that stand as both definitively unique and utterly fascinating. This album is undefinable by genre in the best possible ways, with a little something for every dim campfire heart, and though the skeletons of the textile belt of North Carolina aren’t high on most travelers’ wish lists, you’ll want to visit this landscape in the depths of your best headphones if nowhere else. Let Dor be your guide through the rusted kingdom of the gutted Tarheel State. (Zachary Corsa)