DR503 | The Sun Stabbed EP | Trapdoor Fucking Exit | Helen Said This 12" | Harsh 70s Reality | "Power" 7"
Clyma est Mort | Dead C. vs Sebadoh 7" | The Operation of the Sonne | Metalheart 7" | The White House
World Peace Hope et al. | Repent | Tusk | DR503c | The Dead C 2xCD (2000) | Armed Courage | Trouble | A Handful of Dust/Gate
Apt music for a futuristic nightmare. Low tech & scratchy recorded guitars & drums are fuzzed & whacked around sputtering, (sometimes) barely audible vocals. Seems like I've spent the latter part of the decade tryin to find records this great. I hear parts of Confusion is Sex, Twenty Jazz Funk Greats, Voice of America, but I'm willing to bet DEAD C haven't. Ten years ago this woulda been labeled an "industrial" l.p. Nowadays, any stupe who can get his hands on a oil drum and a can of spray paint can make the same claim. What.ever happened to integrity? Guess DEAD C snatched it all up. A record you should snap up in a heartbeat. - by Tom Lax, Siltbreeze magazine.
The Dead C, a trio from just outside of Dunedin, can make some beautiful moments on their debut record DR503 using the unlikeliest of tools; things like untuned guitars hit with drumsticks recorded onto a Walkman. Their record works quietly in a way that commercial rock music cannot - by disregarding convention and using the antithesis of high technology and overblown production they make me think how much better that photo is than the record it covers.
The Dead C use a suggestion of a mood that's not quite expansive enough to convince the-listener that they're sure of what's going on. F'rinstance, in 'Speed Kills,' because you can't really hear parts of the song, including the lyrics, you're forced into filling in those gaps yourself, expanding on a song where fragility and atmosphere are achieved through its being so deliberately unintelligible.
The Dead C's music is not particularly clever experimental work in the sense that they are working in a genre that can be all too easily dulled by intellectualism or calculated formalism, but they do bring an intelligence and deliberation of intent to DR 503 that makes its atmospheres very real. That is partly achieved too through their intuitive approach, due to the fact that they are simply two nontechnicians, playing guitar with a rhythmically agile drummer. It manifests itself in a way of feeling their way through a song like 'Three Years' until it explodes with a totally unexpected lead break played on a bass amidst crashing cymbals, led by a rise in the tempo of the still-submerged beat.
And even though the Dead C would have to accept profound irritation as a valid reaction to their work, only through its excesses of what is now "traditional" in experimentalism (such as 'Mutterline''s sampled TV noise and accompanying cut-up philosophy) am I bored or irritated. Sometimes DR 503 can be difficult to listen through in its entirety, but that is valid too, part of its challenge to the listener; creating moments of provocation and extreme tension alongside passages of mournful fragility, this is extremism, music to think and squirm to. - by Paul McKessar
TKOP guitarist Morley, along with ex-Verlaines drummer Robbie Yeats + Bruce Russell make up Dead C. Like the above this has that lofi, who-needs-technology appeal that absolutely nobody (just about) in America really seems to understand. Harsh and distorted guitar, fucked up Pep-ish tape loops and churning noise channel this through the dream state like little else in the known universe. Hard to not mention its surreal touch because you'll listen to this and feel that third eye try to pop out of your forhead like a goddamn piranha. Most astounding. both of these ore manufactured by Warner Bros. in NZ -subversion lives. - Jimmy Johnson, Forced Exposure
I was expecting more of the pea soup foggy notion churn that they did so well on their Flying Nun LP, but "Bad Politics" is a giant step forward ... sputtering and grunting in the worst way imaginable, this is the recorded equivalent of a 30 foot gyroscope plowing thru town. If their LP was like 154 without the studio sheen, "Bad Politics" is the uncircumcised song that was left off Pink Flag, minus anything clever, ironic or remotely melodic. And the best part is, the song is all about not getting any girls because you're wearing a Cock Sparrer t-shirt, really, that's what it's about (16 Bernicia St., Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand). - by Gerald Cosloy, Conflict
Monstrous scream-for-life follow up l.p. that makes DR503 look positively cheerful in comparison. Somewhere I read this being compared to UBU's "dark period" work (New Picnic, Art of Walking), but Bruce Russell makes even 30 Seconds David Thomas look like Leo Buscaglia. If THIS HEAT were the successors to the FAUST thing, then DEAD C are that to THIS HEAT. I can only hope you know what that means. Maybe it would be easier to compare 'em to some NYC throb/drone outfits, but personally, I think DEAD C have a lot more to complain about...by Tom Lax, Siltbreeze
Trapdoor Fucking Exit is the sound of three newly freed New Zealanders wrestling with the implications of punk primitive aesthetics in the wake of US/Euro free jazz ground leveling. Two broken guitars and a rapid-firing drummer, playing lead, singlehandedly redefined the concept of garage punk without any considerations of melody, rhythm or fidelity. Originally released as an ultra-limited cassette recorded on a damaged Walkman, the fact that there isn't a Dead C tribute group in every small suburban town the world over is still utterly perplexing. Guitarist Bruce Russell has since become the Southern Hemisphere's premier disseminator of outward-bound sound, courtesy of his Xpressway and Corpus Hermeticum imprints. David Keenan, The Wire, “100 Records That Set The World On Fire,” September 1998
New Zealand noisemakers (and godfathers of the Xpressway scene) the Dead C. pitches its subsonic rattle so subtly that you may not even notice it until you look for the cause of your splitting headache. The guitars and drums aren't played so much as they are slowly bled. Although most of the songs on this record have come out before (on a Forced Exposure 7", a Siltbreeze LP and a self-released cassette), this is the first time it's gone digital. The highlights are "Mighty," the closest the band's come lately to a `rock song,' and the gloriously dribbling 15-minute-plus "Bury (Refutatio Omnium Heresium)." The Dead C.'s style is largely improvisational, but those who think the band just turns on the tape recorder and lets the feedback rip as it pleases are directed to the three coldly organic acoustic demos at the end of the CD. - from College Music Journal
The masterpiece of the first period is still Trapdoor Fucking Exit (Siltbreeze, 1993), which includes "Helen." An album in which their roots (raga-rock, acid-rock, Velvet Underground, Grateful Dead) interpenetrate to give rise to exhausting ceremonial sound. The guitars tortured by Michael Morley and Bruce Russell create at most a veneer of noise, beyond which lies the most distracted patter of a battery. The songs are not so easy to digest: Heaven is a ballad "sour" pairing the vocal harmonies of the Holy Modal Rounders to the strumming of the rickety Royal Trux. The songs most virulent and rhythmic, like Mighty, offer a very poor kind of garage-rock. Those most experimental, as Krossed , are childhood nightmares (free cacophony which give way to a military march with lots of chorus of soldiers). The hubbub rhythmic and hypnotic Power glimpse ie it is going to happen in two long tracks on the disc. Bury (after the first part of feedback reverberating endlessly acting and incomprehensible) s'inoltra in sixteen minutes maelstrom of noise indecipherable in which murmurs softly swirling, tribal drums, animal sounds, an agreement occasional guitar. In the end only remain dark drones in the distance. Is their personal Virgin Forest . Their staff Sister Ray is instead Helen Said This , eleven minutes of esoteric ritual, a guitar against each other in a martial crescendo, with an ending even ghosts, a guitar that emits only agreements anemic and reverberations endless, and the other sings a raga shrill. - from http://www.scaruffi.com/vol6/deadc.html (translated)
If there's really a bad moon rising here in America then it's practically daylight again in Port Chalmers. NZ, where the Dead C's "sonic redemption" is not so much honed & perfected as it is unleashed half-baked for you to make of it what you will. And after hearing "Helen" over and over again for the past few months, I'd like to say that I make quite a bit of it. Not formless in the sense that the players had absolutely no master plan when plugs hit sockets & the pause button was lifted but opened up in a spirit-infused way to allow edgy soul-sifting guitar & maximum volume to embrace each other in a fashion that's positively moving if not simply, righteously ethereal. It's big-time cerebral heaviness for you nature boys out there, twisting & cracking open notions of sound to include spatial & time concepts not seen much elsewhere in your indierock stacks--well, of course I'm exaggerating to make a point here, but I & I and him too are still going to have to see what it's all about. Truly. Bananafish, local chronicler of many things important, said something about the Dead C's music improving upon each listen and to this I add an "amen"--now when I've turned "Helen" off (after 10:43, no less) I know I've learned just a little bit more about the dynamics of semi-controlled & almost-harnessed feedback, perhaps a smidgen about the beautiful world around me, and maybe, just maybe, I've learned a little bit about myself. (Siltbreeze; P.O. Box 53297. Philadelphia PA 19105) - by Jay Hinman, Superdope
It's 2 songs, turns at 33 and a bit, and the band are claiming it as their 3rd album. "Helen" is the shorter and sweeter. A lurching, thumping opening and Morley monotone lead into a maelstrom of guitars that sucks up all in its path. When it's spent, an anorexic A string is left fidgiting away behind a repeating chord pattern that has a shimmering decay about a mile deep. It threatens to peter out in a dozen logical places, and doesn't for about another 4 minutes. Right up there with their finest I'd say, and perfectly mixed, with as much bass end as you'd need and guitars right between your eyes. As for the 'refutation of all 3 minute pap' (isn't that what it means?)... well there are still plenty of places where they'd cut off their hands for less. 'Bury'?! 6 feet of wet clay wouldn't muffle this brutal slab of pre-apocalyptic nihilism. You'll know already if this sounds like your cup of poison, though in the words of the charismatic guest rapper, it will tell just how deep your faith really is. 6 feet? It'll grow on you, or in you, or drive you from the room. - by Nigel Taylor, Alley Oop #9
Holy sh-it holy shit holy shit. Their Flying Nun ID DR503 was a melange of guitars. drums, and tape manipulation that boggled even if wasn't all that listenable in a first lp Red Cravola sort of way. Then came their first Xpressway live tape. Live Dead C.. which revealed a band in flux, dense and remiling splatter puh here. Tight and almost focused splatter rock there. Next was the three cut The Sun Stabbed ep, an assuredly songful effort that was the best 7" of 1989. Not one to leave thinas unsaid and undone, B. Russell then released the DR503b ca--sette onto an unsuspecting (and uncaring) world. Part live and part outtake. at times DR503b is a messy listening experience exceeded by Sonic Death and not much more. But out of the superficially shapeless din, a purpose seems to arise. If you wanted to combine the formal license of not-rock with the raw power of rock itself. you could just plug in ard go but, then again, you might end up going nowhere. If you're the Dead C. however, what you do is pick a song (any song) and take those two guitars and those drums and stroke 'em easy ard bash 'em hard f or as short or as long a time as it takes to say what it is that you want to say. It's that simple.
The hardly blithe "Bury" is, in many ways, a throwback to the first lp. Tape junk wandering, percussion stumbling, guitars screeching. all of it very disorienting and very impressive. At times. "Bury" is also a much easier work to admire than to listen to but then there are other occasions when this fits my head like a pearl necklace. "Helen Said This" is the single most astounding piece of recorded music I've heard this year. it's a ten minute plus linear maelstrom or a song, intense in every way even when it's laying back. Is it rock? Sort of, yeah, but who cares? Rudolph Grey fans can enjoy this just as much Straitjacket Fits fans and punters so leave the pigeonholes to the Diceons; don't forget to bring some wax lips and dental dams too. - author unknown
Why does music, rock 'n roll (whatever that is these days) do to people what it does? I don't know. This band are a logical extension of this because they don't really know what they're doing at the best of times. On the edge is where it.all happens., and the Dunedin 3-piece teeter nicely here (instead of falling off, like the worst bits of the Eusa Kills LP). Unlike their most obvious influence (Sonic Youth) these guys don't mess around. They call 'em like they see 'em. Lyrically it's the observer-in-turmoil bit with stuff about 'she said I don't need you' and 'in Princes street the urchins picked their noses'. There is a sense of purpose here however, I don't think you can pull off something like'Bury', which goes from nasty frenzy to ambient guitar/ reverb, without a game plan. Very few people right now are attempting anything as horribly devil-raisingly rackety, and even less with this sort of 'damn you too' attitude. Xpressway: 16 Bernicia St, Port Chalmers, or go the whole nine yards and write to Siltbreeze, PO Box 53297, Philedelphia, PA 19105, USA and ask what else they've got (heh heh heh). - by Brendon Fitzgibbon
The one that started it all, for both camps, really. Or least cemented budding reputations. Siltbreeze became a benchmark for quality experimental/outsider rock w/ this release, bringing a clear direction to the label after relatively minor forays that started w/ a posthumous Halo of Flies single, a so-so Monkey 101 7", and an aborted/unreleased single from philly scum combo Blue. On the positive side of the ledger were the V3 single, the Gaudylight ep, the Gibson Bros contribution, and of course the two previous Dead C offerings (the Helen Said This lp and the Hell is Now Love b/w Bone 7"). Prior to the Siltbreeze connection, the Dead C had also starting focusing their vision, sharpening it to that of a finely tuned helium laser. A host of barely extant cassettes and comp tracks led to the somewhat patchy 2 albums for Flying Nun; these gave way to a couple real shots across the bow in the form of the precious metal cassettes. Trapdoor Fucking Exit got a proper debutante coming-out w/ the cd reissue, but Runway is as at least deserving of the same treatment. Still, the period after Eusa Kills (which vies w/ Bad Moon Rising as sporting the most visually arresting cover photo - a photo Michael Morley happened to find on a bus!) was one of relative quiet, aside from the "Power" single and some short snippets that would land on a Drag City comp and a Bananafish freebie. This period of quiescence belied the activity that was afoot, and one got the sense of a monster, building and developing, away from the light and sky. Harsh 70's Reality became its name, and it changed a lot of people's perceptions immediately upon issue. From the chromosomal-damaging opening salvo of the 22 minute "Driver UFO", a song that could serve as appropriate accompaniment to the Conet Project cds, it truly was a landmark moment for all parties involved. This reissue, more of a public service act akin to Drag City's re-stock of Twin Infinitives, lacks a couple cuts from the original 2 lp set ("Shark" and "T. Is Never Over I & II" don't make it under the cd time limit bar), thus allowing the smug vinyl collectors to release a slight sigh of relief. Highlights (and there are many) include the distorto-fuzz rollercoaster of "Sky", complete w/ guitar sound matching Gabriel's blowing through the ram's horn; the rigid, martial drum rhythm of Yeats which corrals the braying, rumbling scatter of Morley and Russell; the roiling black water guitar throb of "Suffer Bomb Damage", leavened by electronic keyboard twinkling; Morley's unbridled rage at the schism in "Constellation". A great record, unequaled by the trio until at least The White House. - by Tim Bugbee, PopWatch
"Massive public service reissue of one of the all-time great destructo rock NZ psych/dunt doubles, The Dead C’s masterpiece Harsh 70s Reality: originally released in 1992, Harsh 70s Reality pretty much re-thunk rock-as-rock in the face of the experiments in form of Evol/Sister era Sonic Youth, The Fall, BYG/ESP-formulated free jazz, cassette-bled six string garage turmoil et al, re-birthing rock jams by re-jigging the classic line-up so that you have a drummer, the genius Robbie Yeats, playing lead and reformulating time signatures as definitively as Sunny Murray, Mo Tucker and Ikuro Takahashi while guitarists Bruce Russell and Michael Morley wrestle feedback shapes and iconoclastic physicality from expiring amps and singing electricity. Morley’s vocals are at a narcoleptic/hypnotic peak here, with his tranced, automatic delivery lending dead-weight gravitas to the bulldozing of six protesting strings, fully delivering on the promise of psychedelic music to take you elsewhere, while re-visioning no-technique garage excess as the keys to the goddamn kingdom. Long regarded as the group’s ultimate ‘statement’, not least by the trio themselves, Harsh 70s Reality remains one of the critical game-changers of the contemporary underground, and stands proud alongside seismic doubles like Richard Youngs & Simon Wickham-Smith’s Ceausescu and Royal Trux’s Twin Infinitives. Prepare to have your mind blown. This new fully-re-mastered edition finally restores the full track listing and running time and is issued in an edition of 1000 copies. Highest possible recommendation, a key VT purchase!" - David Keenan, Volcanic Tongue
Since New Zealand's last pressing plant closed down, premier collective noise label Xpressway release all their material on cassette. Fortunately, some labels in the States (notably Siltbreeze) have been issuing some of this material on other formats. The Dead C have been nominated as the inheritors of the Sonic Youth mantle in some quarters and while they are operating in similar territory, they rely more on tape use, the ambience of different recording spaces and unskilled experimentation and improvisation. "Driver UFO", the excellent sidelong track that opens this double LP, consists largely of a warm pulsating mass of tempered feedback and amplifier hum, with added chugging guitar, occasional Casio-style keyboard and some "Sister Ray" hypnotism. Whether by necessity or invention, The Dead C make use of raw recordings from front rooms, rehearsal spaces and live performances as well as the conventional studio. "Sky" is naked emotion (more semi-controlled squealing feedback) and alongside "Driver UFO", "Love" and "Baseheart" would have made a great single LP. Too bad then that on the remaining tracks the group get lost in a void of involutional nihilism, half-baked ideas and general untogetherness. - - PHIL ENGLAND, The Wire, 1993
Collected anecdotes from lo-fi heaven NZ '89-'91 which push the concept hard groping for confines. Introduces itself with a 20+ minute side of haze peppered sparse with hovering cyclical bleeps, the 3 sides following more in the Eusa Kills/DR503 vein--inertia whipped up to new frenzied plateaus. Succeeds as collage in a way something like ROYAL TRUX' Twin Infinitives LP will never do since these three can veer at will in & out of the muck Neil & Jennifer seem permanently mired in. This manner of thing is akin to the puncrock concept of destroying barriers between band & audience, only more sustainable as it's only on a listening level (band coughs up raw genius, listener ties it together or sends it fetching rather than swallowing unquestioning). DEAD C feel no compulsion to deliver any kind of finished "product" & so ride the lethargy other bands struggle to kill. (Siltbreeze; P.O. Box 53297, Philadelphia PA 19105) - by Glen Galloway, Superdope
. . once, many years ago, Thurston Moore was trying to sell an apple to Lenny Kaye up in Times Square. Lenny had seen Sonic Youth play at CBGBs the night before and told Thurston, "You guys are really into Radio Ethiopia, I can tell." Thurston knocked Lenny to the ground, ripped his baggy leather briefs over his scaly hips and shoved that apple right up Lenny's ass. 'See, I knew it," was what Lenny said as he crawled off toward the subway. "I just fuckin' knew it." Should Lenny ever find himself facing an apple-hawking Bruce Russell on the streets of Port Chalmers he'd probably say the same thing and end up w/ another cider enema. He'd have missed the goddamn point again, however, so don't go thinking that Lenny's been dealt w/ too harshly here or anywhere. Dead C don't like Radio Ethiopia, they ARE RADIO ETHIOPIA. The four sides of this monster are the sound that emerges when you blow the fucking cap off the Ras Dahson and send globules of Breth-shaped hashish-turds raining onto the scumbags of Addis Ababa. And if it occasionally sounds like the metal machine muscle that you could once hear whirring inside of Lov Reed while he ate out his man-wife's asshole in the basement of St. Mark's Church, so be it. It also sounds like Patti sport-peeing into a cup set 20 feet away atop the bar at Slugger Ann's. Also like Detroit-era Half Japanese doing their take on Damo-era Can. Also like a battle of Hams tribute bands playing on the roof of the San Francisco Hilton and liquefying during an earthquake. - Byron Coley, Forced Exposure
Someone far more illustrious than I wrote recently it's dangerous to label dbl LPs by your fave band as masterpieces coz within this format, it is possible to overcome time/ space constraints and present themselves on a far more intimate level. This is especially true of the Dead C's latest effort Harsh 70's Reality. The 10 tracks it took the band 2 years to cough-up really do settle back and take over your life/house and interpersonal relationships once you unleash 'em. But how? Why? Well Tim Adams has suggested these guys are "possibly the best white blues around"...and "Harsh 70's Reality" only goes to reinforce that assertion. Only the Dead C is capable of creating a majestic enough LoFi blast of crumbling noise that simultaneously betrays the tumult which makes up our daily lives and yet celebrates that very existence.
On the one level this dbl LP is the perfect blueprint for what a "rock" band should sound like in the 90's. From the intimidating 22 minutes of opener "Driver UFO" onwards, the listener is treated to a perpetually shifting soundscape of collaged guitar/drum/tape noise. Alternately sucking you into a dark abyss or spitting shards of white light. Apparently formless, much of the structure of this comes from the "song titles." Like "Suffer Bomb Damage" which ripples waves of strummed guitar over an eerily alienated keyboard; just what one imagines the sound of ground zero to be. "Love", which is a fine example of the Dead C's layered free guitar-feedback damage, which distills an intoxicatingly surreal texture/feel."Constellation" which is the full-boar-splatter majesty of Dead C rock. Cardboard drums prop up a miasma of droning guitar mulch, which is spliced into a completely different recording in another setting. Keywords here being intoxicating (Love) and majesty (Constellation).
Which gets me to the next level this recording operates on... and where the "blues" analogy comes from. "Hope" is the perfect example of this. "Hope" is a 9 minute multi-setting recording which concurrently presents the title as ironic and an affirmation. Booze barn clatter, grooved silence and acoustic apathy provides an aching loss of innocence quality which creates the realization that this needn't be so.
If the locked grooves that the band was rumored to have experimented with for this had worked...you could have stayed in this scarifyingly beautiful. version of "reality" ...forever. - by Simon Baker, Insample
I have studied this album and compiled a compendium of IMPORTANT DEAD C MOVES for your rock and roll edification. (You gotta love me.)
1.) THE 20-MINUTE HOOK-This double album starts with the side-long "U.F.O. Driver", fine programme music (y'know, like Hector Berlioz) that succeeds in its plan to not connote "music" (per se) but be vague noise that MIGHT JUST BE like traveling in a UFO. (It's cool how they do this camp stuff about UFO's in such a garbage-y and intense and surreal way.) But anyway, it's 20 minutes of this one fucking idea and if you're gonna stick with it. The Dead C have pretty much got you in their grasp afterwards so there you have it: THE 20 MINUTE HOOK.
2.) PUNK ROCK--Yeah, like "Sky" REDEFINES punk rock, really. The obnoxiousness of the guitar sound and the drums is SERIOUS like little short of The Electric Eels in fact.
3.) THE DEAD C REV-UP--Wherein you begin a new piece with sparseness and disjointedness and arhythmic-ness and the guitars are so incredibly distorted that it's like motors revving up. Fine way to start a song...(but then when you do lock into a groove, be sure to make it POST-APOCALYPTIC: The Dead C have songs about the U.S. fucking up the world by dropping their fucking bombs all over the place and fucking killing everyone and wrecking everything and if you don't want political rhetoric in the music you listen to then you can at least remember these guys have a sense or humor about it).
4.) EXPLOSIVE SPUTTERING--you might suppose you'd get annoyed at these guys when they don't lock into a groove and get their shit together (like how sometimes you might wish The Sun City Girls would get to the point or something when they're noodling), but with Dead C their SPUTTERING is so EXPLOSIVE (and they throw in the occasional novelty moment to keep you entranced by the weirdness and keep you guessing) that it's almost always interesting noise and pretty powerful (see Dead C move #6).
5.) USE OF NO-WAVE SITUATIONISM--Like on "Shark" they just seem to be picking up on any old thing riff-wise or rhythm-wise as long as it's sufficiently nothing and nowhere and proceed to let it go nowhere and put a bunch of random stuff on it. (And then do it again on the next cut <in a totally different way> to prove how weird you are.)
6.) DISTORTED GUITARS--A highly refined trash aesthetic here. I don't mean to be so silly as to champion something because there's a buncha distorted guitars on it but it's actually more of a situation of like how Thurston Moore describes the sound of Nikki Sudden's guitar on that old Swell Maps song "Let's Build A Car", which "oomes slicing slabbing and fuzzifying off that crackling vinyl groove and you know yr gonna rock". I mean, there's considerable POWER in just the strumming of open guitar notes on "Suffer Bomb Damage". A magical repetition of timbres rendered more shocking through those very repetitions and their circumstantial- weirdness quotient and/or attitude problem.
7.) THE VOCAL HOOK--Lyrics seem .pretty incomprehensible a lot at least in terms of linear poeti methodology (i.e. not deconstruction methodology), but tat least to a novice Dead C listener like me: a guy who has OTHER THINGS TO DO IN LIFE than constantly listen to the Dead C for your rock n' roll edification) a big Dead C move is the silly vocal hook where you act out ambiguously allusive emotional stuff like you yell "Sit down!" a bunch of times so the listener gets the picture of some really vague delirious situation but God knows what it might be. (Other examples of this are when they keep saying stuff like talking about "the wee-wee" or growl "I have more important things to worry about!".
8.) PLAY A SINGLE CHORD AND LET IT RING FOR FOUR SECONDS AND THEN PLAY IT AGAIN--I think they've probably read that book that Jandek published on chord voicings.
And, in conclusion, I have this to say to you: You have to realize this music (unlike the sublime moments of other sprawling bands like Television or Spacemen 3) makes little attempt to GET HIGH and/or remain there so it's not a heaven rock trip; it's pretty earthy. Good music to play AT WAY HIGH MAXIMUM VOLUME while talking baths going to sleep, having sex, driving through the desert. Dead C are all about the elasticity/expansion/reduction/destruction of time, drawing your attention to the microscopic bubble of musical envelopment that really spaces your head out and delivers up a piece of eternity. - by Tim Ellison, Rock Mag!
"Ever since I discovered them at the age of 14, I was a massive, massive Sonic Youth fan. Even that is a poor way of putting it; I was an OVERWHELMING Sonic Youth fan. I was an all-encompassing, terrifying Sonic Youth fan. In the same scratching-a-mosquito-bite way that most straight 14 year old boys would think about the girls in their class, I thought about distortion and feedback and ironic pop-music structures; I would say things like, 'hearing Sonic Youth for the first time literally changed my life', which was more or less true but also held as much weight as most 14 year old proclamations. I also thought about those girls, who were generally not into feedback and irony, and so I had a very lonely adolescence.
This was in the early days of the Internet and also of another time that will forever be lost: a time when loving an unpopular artform was an exercise in isolation rather than a rallying call. This is a time when Husker Du was setting my brain on fire (even though they had been broken up for years and years and years) and I didn't have anyone to turn to with this new passion, so I had to basically reinvent punk rock in my head, by myself. It was a sad, lonely, but ultimately empowering phase to go through, and while I won't say it was GOOD, I will say that there is a certain romance to it now.
So anyway, I was obsessed with Sonic Youth and I would trawl the nascent Internet for whatever scraps I could find: small, battered outcroppings in what was otherwise a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Message boards and listservs: these were my torchfires, my beacons in the darkness. I was a sad, lonely kid and I didn't know what to do with my sadness or my loneliness, and these message boards, mostly populated by other sad, lonely kids, were always talking about the Dead C. They LOVED the Dead C, and these voices in the wilderness, well, I just loved that they were there, so I loved everything they ever said.
The Dead C achieved legendary status in my mind, they truly did, because I would read, just, pages and pages of overflowing praise about how great this weird New Zealand band were. Words like, 'intensity', 'deconstruction', 'fearless', and the phrase 'barely controlled chaos' were thrown about. It sounded THRILLING. People would write about how they had heard 'the White House' and it sounded like they had uncovered pieces of the true grail.
But I was never able to track down any of their albums. ** I spent a few years basically imagining what the Dead C sounded like --- FANTASIZING about this music. And then I completely forgot about them until this post.
The first thing I did is, I listened to 'Outside' (the 'harsh psychedelic' link) and was really underwhelmed for maybe the first 7 minutes - it sounded like every mediocre indie band from that era that I bought on the Internet's say-so - but then, I don't know, something opened up and the noise happened and it suddenly became beautiful. It reminded me of the wild abandon that excited me about experimental rock, way back in those lonely days.
And so I immediately went out and bought 'Harsh 70s Reality' because those lonely days could not be more over. Where buying a long sought after album once felt like an archaeological discovery, now, is just a vague regret that one feels come the credit card statement.
And here is the crazy thing, that is really bothering me, because 'Harsh 70s Reality' is terrible. Utterly, utterly terrible. I am about halfway through and it just TERRIBLE. I feel bad even typing this, given my weird pseudo-relationship with the band, but time has not been kind to this album.
It starts off with a vaguely interesting noise piece of a kind which is really not that interesting anymore, but is not out and out awful. If you would like to sit around your house and feedback guitars and occasionally scrape a pick above the neck to make that distinctive 90s chiming sound, you are more than welcome. I doubt you could do it as darkly or engagingly as this - as far as 90s style guitar noise goes, this is top notch stuff - but you could probably do it. We live in an age where nearly every single underground band, and quite a few famous ones, record at home because it's too expensive to go into a proper studio because of the Internet, basically. (also because of the RIAA and how information wants to be free and also, censorship? and how if you want to buy an album the money goes to the corporations anyway? Also, something about copyright law.)(No one has been able to explain it too good to me, at least.)
And then the rest of the album happens, and it is just utterly terrible. Not even INTERESTINGLY terrible. Calling it a 'deconstruction of garage rock' is much too kind, though I can kind of hear where that is coming from. It sounds, almost literally, like a poor quality recording of a semi-competent cover band's sound check. There is certainly nothing interesting musically going on except the amazement that somebody bothered to commit this to tape.
I won't even bother describing it more: it literally sounds like a really shitty rock band warming up when they didn't know the tape was running.
When I started this (what has turned out to be) essay, I wasn't sure how the beginning would fit in, but now I realize that this music belongs to an earlier age. It seems naive, now, but back then the mere act of recording something like this was a statement in and of itself, just as listening, seeking, finding music like this was an exercise in monastic purity. The obscurity itself only contributed; there was a weird sort of purity to it, that you were making music so artful that it couldn't even be heard. The point of it was the obscurity; it didn't matter what it sounded like, as long as nobody heard it.
Nowadays, absolutely anybody in the world who is capable of recording anything can make her music instantly available. 'There is no talent to obscurity', as the saying goes.
So what of the lonely kid I was, who placed a fetishistic importance on music like this, unheard by the slobbering masses (or whatever horrible epithet he might have used)? I don't know what to tell him, except that great music takes effort, takes craft, and that it survives beyond its context?
How good are Sonic Youth, honestly? How good are Husker Du and Mission of Burma and Sleater-Kinney and the Fall; and any of the other bands that I idolized during those dark few years of my life? There is a depth and intricacy to their music that goes beyond obscurity and circumstance and that still speaks to me, even though it no longer sounds like a holy beacon from some forgotten Eden.
The Dead C just sound like a very decent noise band that was nearly forgotten by time --- and had they come about 20 years later, would have been. Actually, not forgotten, not entirely; rather, in a weird way, they would live on forever, commemorated eternally on some lonely, unmanned MySpace page." posted by Tiresias at 10:05 PM on October 23, 2012
The double Harsh '70s Reality (Siltbreeze, 1992) exceeds every pretension harmonious, especially in twenty-two minutes of UFO Driver . This grueling jam psychedelic chamber expands virtually the joints of the Grateful Dead, leaving only feedback in the foreground, glissando and reverbs, and eliminating the rhythm, stretching and veils turpissima electronic rambling ruminations on the guitars. The bickering sidereal guitar is almost the antithesis of the history of rock music. The twelve-minute Love is not to be outdone, with that long crackle of guitar, countless ribs, heart random battery, nor any sense of the song. A long shaggy deafening drone drag that other torture Sea Is A Violet , with percussion amateur unleashed without restraint. The guitars are having fun in Suffer Bomb Damage to simulate a bombing. A few moments of respite. Sky is linked instead to the Australian garage-rock, to Scientists and Feedtime; Constellation shamelessly copy tribalism and distortion of Sister Ray . Hope (ten minute ) closes the album with a chant pseudo-hippie, drowned in agreements tired of guitar, again without battery but with gong strokes. The disc represents the pinnacle of research anti-harmonic Russell and Morley. His soundscape is bounded by the second album of The Velvet Underground, dizzy from the first suite of Pink Floyd, the most rambling delusions live the Grateful Dead and Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed. Only the Twin Infinitive of Royal Trux may compete with him. If hell exists, Beatles fans will spend eternity `to listen to this disc. - from http://www.scaruffi.com/vol6/deadc.html (translated)
Funny how a guitar de-tuned badly enough to make purists wince can be made to soar in an exhilaratingly beautiful manner--or is it the ear that's de-tuned? Of course I don't hang out w/ such purists, whoever they are. & I suspect the Dead C are too busy creating their dense little (& often epic) alternate sonic terrains for they, themselves & them only to care--whoever else embraces or "gets it" isn't along for any deconstructive let's-kill-rokk trip & if they are they've run out of records to listen lo. For my part let's just say that your Hanatarashis, your Haters, your Molasses (s) are great A.) as comedy B.) as an idea of an ultimate search for the free-est expression C.) on the pages of the aforementioned Bananafish. but since I don't read, dream or laugh at all I'm pretty much just in the way when it comes to such matters. As my very good friend Helen Hairspray once said of a younger J. Merwin Hinman, "You're (He's) just a punk rock prima donna, aren't (isn't) you (he?)?". The Dead C, now there's a band we can all circle-dance to. Their bag is an ongoing search for the middle divider separating the formless black "other" (75%) and wild teenage rock n' roll (25%). The latter props up the former to make some of the most incredible, raw, defocused dark soul ache I've ever heard. Reference points are fucking nil, & this new 7" might very well be my favorite Dead C since the last one. You really owe it to yourself to see how far rock can be pushed and still ROCK. You know what I mean? (Forced Exposure; P.O. Box 9102, Waltham MA 02254) - by Jay Hinman, Superdope
I don't recall the full story behind this goliath but if I heard correctly it was ripped from their very souls in Bruce's living room live-to-Tom Lax for your listening pleasure. Or maybe not 'cause it at least sounds like an authentic round of cheers. Probably the most transcendent rock band on the planet right now, the Dead C make song titles like "Sky", "World" or "Constellation" seem like far more than the sum of their parts, and this muddied bursting-at-the-seams recording process brings it higher than they've flown since the godsound wrecked beauty of "Helen Said This". The tuneless hyper-feedback muffle of "Electric" is a long, stange trip beyond the relatively sedate & pedestrian "Bad Politics" from The Sun Stabbed. that's for damn sure. The Totale's Turns piss-take was very charming & I'd have to say this LP is, um, "sufficiently coffee table". Bah! (no address) - by Jay Hinman, Superdope
...as a Fall tribute record, this is only about as workable as one of the knee-joints on one of Steve Garvey's wooden legs. As a tunnel through the holes of some clubgoers' heads, however, a tunnel through which twists of bright felt, curlicues of lacy underwear, and pennies hotter than locomotive-steam pass w/ damning regularity and florridness - it is quite a rider. The parts "fit" "together" in way that (I guess) describes this band's aesthetic better than anything else they've recorded, but like I said -- as a Fall tribute, it's pretty puny. - by Byron Coley, Forced Exposure
The eight Dead C albums released by Siltbreeze in the 90s represent the best work by both the New Zealand noise-rock unit and the Philadelphia dirt rock label. Clyma Est Mort is The Dead C’s The King Of Comedy: dark, clever, obscure and underappreciated. Itself a reissue of a 1992 bootleg, Clyma is a dense live LP that fully reveals the trio’s loose, lumbering beauty. Michael Morley drools through heavy vocals, Bruce Russell sprays electric noise and Robbie Yeats provides its brain-addled beat. The sleeve art is a variation of The Fall’s Totale’s Turns. It shor tens the latter’s subtitle “It’s Now Or Never” to “It’s Never”, but leaves one key phrase unaltered: “Satire always takes a while to get through.” All The Dead C albums on Siltbreeze are out of print, but Clyma Est Mort is one of two never to make it to CD, and with Totale’s Turns coming back into circulation earlier this year, it’s the perfect time for Clyma Est Mort to follow suit. -Marc Masters
Cramming eight (eight!) songs onto their latest single, New Zealand's greatest rock band ever (fuck you to all the patzers who disagree and do not think the exact same way I do) embrace with open arms the media manipulation phenomenon for the attention-span impaired that was (and, it's rumored among New Zealand's 'alternative' morons, that is) punk rock. Of course, The Dead C. have to fuck up the genre by possessing some kind of vision and then daring to release a record that will still matter this time next year----such a reputable group of professionals should know better. In a musical climate which allows the Headless Chickens to hold a 'rave' to which those who actually want to gain entry can only do so by purchasing a pair of shoes from one of two excessive markup Wellington stores, it's axiomatic that anyone who is not irretrievably square will opt to walk the streets barefoot, lightfootedly stepping around broken beer bottles and violently screaming 'I hate you!' at the suited infidels who infest that pathetic city. - by Nick Cain, De/Create
"Excerpts from the This Is Port Chalmers, Not LA sessions of unpure one-take hardcore, a move that automatically scratches many a head ('Hey man, I thought you said these guys were STONERS...') w/ a brillo pad & brings the long-promised Solger revival that much closer to fruition. Who knew? Amazing how they got those clubbed elephant seal yelps on tape and set e'm to a Fuck-Ups/Dr. Know 1000bpm soundtrack, but they did it and it's great. Now we can once and for all end the 'A Vs. B' crap. Can't we all just get along?" - by Jay Hinman, Superdope #7
Sure was glad to see this was not a Dead C/Sebadoh split seven inch as I've realized that despite some cultural importance to the confessional Lou Barlow love song experience, Sebadoh sure stink a lot of the time. Dead C, though, are pretty damn inspired. To ask how cam thee lab three to make music so strange is a complex issue that can perhaps be explained by getting to the bottom at what it is they're doing now. 11, as Jay Hinman says, their sound is an "un-sound," then they must be getting more unsound as time goes on became this is a damn skronking record. A question that comes to mind is can we call this anti-rock? *Anti,* as in "the opposite at," and hence like a photo negative. We think at negatives as black and white and all Dead C record covers are B&W and the guitars are certainly brash and distorted enough to sound pretty white to me (compared with, soy, the sound of Marc Bolan's Los Paul). Dead C are perhaps most important as minimalists. Eight short songs here have but a handful at ideas to them total, which makes them totally ridiculous as 'songs,' and therefore definitely one at the most out-there bands in existence; more out-there than The Boredoms really. Dead C I think realize this and you can hear that self-confidence in the music and so they're swinging with sow inspiration. Side am has three songs that are deconstructed punk duets (strange groupings at chunky chords) and then an&rhythmic no wave workout with explosive sputtering that sounds a bit like Mars. Side B is live (containing an excerpt from what must be a now lengthy epic "Air") and you see how their songs are more like vibes or fields (designated by a drum pattern I think probably a lot at the time). Once again their lyrics are rants, indecipherable except for occasional moments of clarity to connote vague delirious scenarios. (This time it's "I hate you." and "Why don't you do something?!" and "Move it!"). Dead C prove that all it takes is a little religious devotion to whatever (in this case lo-fi sonic texture junkyard anti-rock). - Tim Ellison, Rock Mag!
"The screamingest Dead C. yet makes the already discoverable point that loose overloaded guitar, loudly talked vocals and impulsively off-cuff drum-foundations are a hell of a lot more 'punk' than, as Seymour Glass once sort of put it, really fast versions of 'Listen to the Mockingbird.' And while it's hard not to be at least a little double-taken by the Minor Threat t-shirt Robbie Yeats wears during the live 'Lives of Steel,' this smattering of eight quick classics sounds most like a delicious improvised sampling of the climaxes between the build-ups and downs of more elongated Dead C. epics (with the exception of 'Air (Excerpt),' whose abstractions sound like a possible beginning to whatever greatness the next LP chooses.) The overwhelming yammer/slobber of the multi-vocals in reaction to the accelerated musical proceedings is another testament to the malleability of this trio's mix and forces Vs. Sebadoh into the position of best Dead C. 7" so far." - by Marc Masters, Crank #4
With the demise of the SubPop singles club,1 guess I'll never get to see that Dead C single which I (very ironically) fantasized about.Which is a shame coz 6 out of the 8 tracks here are fuckin' punk rock man! though not necessarily falling within the parameters set out by the Pacific northwest of the USA. Heard an audience tape of them, during the S/Youth tours Auckland show. At one stage, Bruce Russell spits "we've got hundreds of.." Well here's a small sample. 123 and Robbie Yeats kicks out the jams. Very much "Bad Politics" revisited. The Stop start smash nature really creates a lull into which the last two tracks, as a taste for the new LP, wow. Port Chalmers stab at ambient-Kraut-pulse. - by Simon Baker, Insample
Seven months later and here it is - the overlong time period since the last Dead C. LP and members' solo/ side-project output in that same period cast this in a whole new light. The Operation of the Sun shows an awareness of this fact, and perhaps as a reaction shakes its head and casts its eyes on an aged synth - this is the most zonked Dead C. yet. 'The Marriage Of Reason And Squalor', a blurry din replete with synth flourishes and two men talking in your air, hints at the Dead C. dialectic - where two guitars, completely unrelated in directional activity, rub up (sorry) against each other, the wrong way (right way produces powerjams like 'Helen' and Clyma Est Mort's 'Power'), to effect something no other band can touch - but takes things a step further by blurring the guitars yet further and pushing the drums backward. Phew. The random recitation passage is so distant from the 'background' music that it gives me the chills, and the amorphous guitaring's build -up-but-noclimax and gradual unravelling is more than pleasant. 'Mordant Heaven' sees Morley's preposterously stoned, slurred dirge fighting a losing battle with some lock mode, auto-pilot synth, posing no questions which cannot be answered by side-long 'epic' 'Air', a fabulously out collection of 73 different kinds of random incoherencies with a commendably high Invisibility Of Musician factor. Combining the what-the-fuck blankness of Harsh Seventies Reality(side 1) with the bleary intensity of Harsh Seventies Reality (sides 2, 3 and 4) to come up with a bleary, long distance there-must be-dust-on-my-needle wander - beautifully formless, beautifully fucked and beautifully beautiful, and it's entirely appropriate that a band which has (not) made a career out of inaccessibility should reach their widest audience (2000 copies pressed!!) with what is their most inaccessible/ least accessible record yet. - by Nick Cain, De/Create
The Dead C. may be the only band going today apart from Sonic Youth to exist in this legion, having done it all essentially with electric guitars/drums and 'it' being a pretty singular (and unique) re-evaluation of that-which-is-rock. These guys have a pretty vast discography now of the most nothing rock music ever, expanding tremendously on the early concept of a band like Cabaret Voltaire. With this album, only three long pieces, the music's more about the endlessness of noise then ever. The synthesizer noise and the continued feedback-as-abstract-melody experiments alongside Michael Morley's skronk guitar abstract sculptures and the fine "rock' drumming creates considerably more of a context of abundance here. It still not being a wall of sound, this album's really listenable as a psychedelic rock album- a varied/colorful/landscape-with-open-spaces not unlike a sort of modern Piper The Gates of Dawn; no joke: containing weird song ('Mordant Heaven, " as weird a song as "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk"), weird psychedelic noise conglomerates throughout (like the end of "Bike'), long jams like "Interstellar Overdrive," archetypal concepts of the band itself, playing, (as in the Floyd's "Pow R Too H"), and Michael Morley's single note guitar lines amidst a psychedelic cacaphony (like in the end of "The Marriage of Reason and Squalor') are similar to Syd Barrett's guitar style. A devastated landscape, for sure ' this album, plus a segment of "Air" reminds you they can rock like in a "Helen Said This, manner of post-'Sister Ray" music, too. A great album. - by Tim Ellison, Rock Mag!
DEAD C The Operation of the Sonne (Sillbreeze); A HANDFUL OF DUST The Philosophick Mercury; Musica Humana (Corpus Hermeticum) Exactly what is it that's so damned appealing about A Handful of Dust's free noise? To steal a quote from "Videodrome": "They're dangerous; they have a philosophy." And what a dangerous philosophy it is, namely that any sound that isn't tied down can be considered music. But unlike similar excursions by pioneers like John Cage, who based improvisations on strict sets of conditions, HoD bases its explorations on more ambiguous concepts of mood and texture. On ... Mercury, HoD is Bruce Russell, Alastair Galbraith, and Peter Stapleton-and what a holy racket they make. Yet it's never ugly or nihilistic like the chimney-scrapings and amplified misanthropy of hellspawn like Whitehouse; it is (despite the physical volume) a delicate and sometimes sublime sound that demonstrates what can happen when improvisers actually listen to one another. No matter how formless the tempest may sound at first, there are underlying patterns that uncoil and reveal themselves only after repeated listenings, patterns that emerge organically from the near-telepathic communications of its creators. The set may lack the conceptual purity of 1992's Concord (a tribute to the unpredictable Concord amplifier), but fortunately that's now available on the Musica Humana CD, which collects the entire HoD output up to Mercury. The Dead C work in a similar fashion, but their history of reliance on song structure, however distant, still infuses their abstractions. Like Jackson Pollock, the Dead Cs work accrues power from our knowledge that the players can play traditional, structured music together, but they choose not to. And, of course, the trio of Bruce Russell, Michael Morley (Gate) and Robbie Yeats (Trash) creates a much different internal tension than the HoD triumverate, something more menacing and bellicose than the mood created with the melancholic Galbraith. But like the group mind that is manifest in HoD, they're not just making noise, they're getting inside sounds and exploring their possibilities. - by Jeff, Popwatch
Live cuts of what may be their now (or not so now, as the record was originally released a year or so ago in Now Zealand) minimalist epic, making use of almost no notes (even from Michael), just heavy noisefuzz hitting and feedback, some extra high-pitched feedback, and Robbie alternately doing things or just playing a cymbal. Beat cut of this type since "Air," an these guys seem to make up these now "fields" (in the tradition of The Velvets' "Melody Laughter- and "It Was A Pleasure Then" or "Radio Ethiopia" or literally any Can song) as they go along, depending on whatever equipment they feel like using and whatever they might want to do--and then seemingly live in them quite a bit for a period of time. Their discography has really become a massive thing now of rock records which are practically nothings an the transmissions of snow continue... This new single, another epic, just really reinforces the sense that these guys have created more spaces that resemble the zen void of nature, in an exotic and mythological variety, than anyone. Creeping technological anthems that are the group's cyclone-jam essence and certainly give a now (and improved) sense of what was origin ally meant by referring to music an "metal"--Dead C continues to be imminently listenable as a rock band. - by Tim Ellison, Rock Mag!
Dead C.'s home-taping four track sound sounds great here. Great synth sounds coming through their (big, old?) tube amps on "Voodoo Spell." "The New Snow" is a very abstract, long ambient cut. The Dead C -- simply organic and still a rock band and in this sense it's really enjoyable, as the extension of a form. "Your Hand" is the same old not-rock (with an electric bass guitar, though!) with double-tracked quavery vocals which Michael Morley's been doing since Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos (It was such a good idea that they're still doing it many years later and it's still inspired.). "Bitcher" is true ambient-punk, and the last cut, "Outside," shows how potentially eternal great ideas can be: like it's just a more minimal "Helen Said This," which devolves and stops, and by keeping the chord progression going in timeless space they create a potentially awesome symphonic conclusion to the album, though this unfortunately deteriorates too (too bad Mark E. Smith wasn't there to warn, "Don't start improvising!") It's all in the expansive Dead C. concept as it gets ambient, from there, though. - by Tim Ellison, Rock Mag!
Dead C hail from Auckland, New Zealand, which is appropriate since they sound like noise from the edge of the world. The Village Voice has described them as sounding "like a garbage truck backing over the abyss" The White House, their tenth album (the group has been going since 1987). is from the tradition of Lou Reed's 1975 anti-classic Metal Machine Music. More contemporary reference points would have to include Royal Trux's impenetrably weird Twin lnfinitives, or loft primitivist Jad Fair's Half Japanese at their most deviant.
"Your Hand" is Dead C's sole concession to anything resembling pop conventions. A stumbling. awkward neoballad, its their only song featuring a 'vocal', or rather a heavily distorted and buried voice mumbling 'Won't you come hold my hand". The rest is an unhinged skree of white nose, as if the group is paying tribute to the feedback on the end of The Velvet Underground's 'European Son"
Dead C have likened themselves to a jazz ensemble, and there's certainly an element of improvisational, freeform jazz at work here, as well as a late 70s No Wave noise aesthetic combined with a harsher take on the current American lo-fi sensibility, There's also a hermetic. insular rural-basement feel that is completely Dead C's own. The White House should warm the hearts of noise advocates everywhere. - from The Wire
Latest hard-sell heavy psychedelic rock platter from these sniggering inhabitants of the Siltbreeze/Matador/Atlantic food chain sees the feeding hand yelping in pain from a hard molar bite - to even consider that such a record, possibly the least widely- palatible Dead C. reLease yet, has any 'commercial' appeal is pure folly, but what the fuck do we care about Gerard Cosloy's corporate plan anyway? Here, communal loose-bound together/apart group improvisation (always on the brink of falling down around itsetf, and in a permaneritty shambotic state, yet maintaining itself through a unique kinetic (anti-)energy), replete with ocular fall-rise effects pedal. step, muted Mortey mumble, synthesiser blurt, and whistling solos neatly summarises this band's career thus far, whilst simultaneousty opening up whole new planes of possibte direction-shift. You don't need me to tell you it's good. - Nick Cain, De/Create
A large percentage of living humans have never heard rock music. Of those who have, most don't particularly care for it. Among those who enjoy the stuff, it's not unreasonable to estimate that at least 99% would hate the DEAD C if they heard it. The Whitehouse is the eighth album from New Zealanders Bruce Russell (electric guitar/synth), Michael Morley (electric guitar/vocals) and Robbie Yeats (drums), masters of texture, volume and emotional communication via musical instruments. It's rock music to dive into, explore and get lost in - magnificent noise sculpted by sensitive hands. Due to Siltbreeze's evolving position in the pop music food chain, free copies of this bugger will find their way into the sweaty hands of radio stations. Let's see if they recognize the best rock band in the world today. - from College Music Journal
White House (Siltbreeze, 1995) has revived the Dadaist approach to composition in a size just more accessible. The disc opens with the vibrations / distortion deafening Voodoo Spell , now submerged by Spell (twelve minutes), a cacophony of magma on the move crossed by stonatissime guitar improvisations. The flight psychedelic Aime To Prochain COMME Toi Meme and the ballad ultra-distorted Bitcher (which would appeal to Brother JT) opened in the most solemn manner the gates of hell to the torrential Outside that closes the album. The latter is a masterpiece of nerve-wracking waiting for a song that will not take `never form, a form of Beckett-ian fable in which the protagonists are the menacing noises that overlap with the agreements crunched by the guitar. The drone almost mantric self-feeding of a wild force, but that force does not shed ever. It is like the prelude to a cavalcade of Amon Duul, but a prelude that never fails to play the riff to start. Mutatis mutandis (the rock instruments instead of electronic gadgets) these songs are related to the sound sculptures of Gordon Mumma. Brian Eno `invent the music that you hear. The Dead C have invented the music that is impossible to listen to. from http://www.scaruffi.com/vol6/deadc.html (translated)
I'm actually listening to Outside, as I write this, and at the 12 minute mark, and finding it pretty righteous with a goodly amount of the low end turned up to make it sound less tinny and I have to say it's sounding pretty righteous, but only because I've already experienced the repetitive beginning, and this noodling part is making sense, and I guess there's a lesson right there. Sometime we just need to go on the whole trip and give it time before we understand anything about an experience...musical or otherwise, and there was a time people lived inside an album worth of music for a while, put up there feet got comfortable and really came to know the landscape of it, but these days everything's got to instantly deliver or it's considered a waste of time...and the internet encourages that idea of self-gratification just by the nature of music downloads and the overwhelming staggering amount of content, musical and otherwise that seeks to be consumed and forgotten. And Sonic Youth knew that from the moment they made themselves a corporate band they had to adopt a more conventional song, structure and song approach and be more readily consumable, and I think it was smart, as they achieved a whole new audience and were able to go back to the more epic long playing peices with stuff for example on Washing Machine, the Dead C. though are obviously never ever going to be able to be that sort of pre-contrived thing for better or worse, because they are going for something more pure, more profound both for the players and the listeners, and that in itself is something that, as you suggest, is a fetish, and a code, and a necessary thing...
But honestly, I can't imagine SY remaining in their Bad Moon Rising stage forever or Husker Du attempting to remake Land Speed Record or Zen Arcade again and again, it would've be a disservice, even to themselves, no matter how pure and uncompromising that might've been and both of those bands had real pop-chops at the end of the day that they were able to mesh with their unique sounds, and I'm glad they evolved, even if, as in the case of HD, it meant they had to break up ultimately.
Anyway looks like I'm going to have to pick up Harsh 70s Reality as well...at some point, and there are lots of points in life we need to just slow the fuck down and stop zapping ourselves with instant shots of adrenaline from an internet link and live inside out heads and skin, for a while and enjoy the noise in our heads if we can, I mean it's actually crucial if you want to know thyself.
Purity is a good place to visit frequently and perhaps even stay a while, but not a good long term situation...
posted by SkyGazer on Metafilter
The central contradiction being that a band whose output is so vastly diverse ran throw together a six years wide comp that coheres so naturally you wonder why it wasn't released as an LP. Roll-call: four from DR503b, the two Bananafish and two others intended, X/WAY Vision's live 'Helen', 'Power' from the FE single, two outtakes from Harsh 70s (the unheard 'Stars' and a [radically] different version of 'Sea Is Violet'), a 1993 version of 'Hope', and the Prev unrel 'World', from the same year. Talk about a soft sell - difficult to think of one DC release that's been anything less than compulsory, and this i-dotting, t-crossing collection's old-new/new-old accumulations elevate it into a yet higher sphere of essentiality. Not a scenario you should have much trouble visualising. Stunning artwork by our hero Graham Lambkin also. - Nick Cain, De/Create
from a 1995 Forced Exposure catalog:
THE DEAD C: World Peace Hope et al. CD (SX 027). "...mind blowing compilation of largely unheard, unknown, unimagined & unreleased material from M. Morley, B. Russell and R. Yeats - New Zealand's finest, um, sons ... spans the years 1988-1993 and includes classic 'lost' material from the cassette-only DR 503b, out-takes from Harsh 70s Reali!y, a monstrous version of 'Helen' from the X/Way Vision video ... so goddamn seamless it doesn't even have the appearance of being a lousy compilation but sounds like a completely new album, ie. far more than the sum of it's more than considerable parts." Cover by Graham Lambkin. $15.00
The Dead C - World Peace Hope Et Al
Gate - The Dew Line • TABLE OF THE ELEMENTS
New Zealand's The Dead C operate elliptically, at the fringes of usually disparate genres, lending them the appearance of the product of a Venn diagram of the underground, and securing predictable acclaim from Sonic Youth. Yet after digesting World PeaceHope…., a compilation of outtakes and selected tracks from their Xpressway cassette releases, to draft them into the Youth's experimental jet set would be unfaithful to the tenor and feel of their music.
Built up out of crude drumming, mournful keyboards so primitive they remind me of a soldier playing a mouth organ in the trenches of the Somme, and varied shades of guitar, The Dead C's fixation on tape experimentation may immediately mark them as lo-fi practitioners, but the emphasis on home taping as an antidote to the way in which record companies kill music, as well as the sheer droning repetitiveness of the songs, suggests a more Isolationist mood. This is deeply fragile, tenuous music, always ready to collapse into mere practice-room chord changes and unlistenable arsing about, yet frequently coalescing underneath the pathos-ridden vocals into something akin to a new kind of folk music, one cueing off the all-electric heritage of The Velvet Underground (John Cale and Nico make 'guest appearances' on “Abschied," but whether as samples or players isn't made clear).
Perhaps it's just because in New Zealand sheep outnumber the drug dealers, but if there is a specific strand of The Velvets' legacy which The Dead C recall, it's John Cale's haunting Music ForA New Society, music shorn of its last vestiges of intelligibility, rather than the more streetwise Lou Reed. This elegaic quality is further underlined by Gate, Michael Morley's sideproject, which may or may not include contributions from Morley's mates Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo - the sleeve is a landmark of anonymity. What the cover of The Dew Line does feature is an image of a rustic hut standing amid an overgrown garden on the edge of a belt of leafy hillside suburbia; a perfect image to complement Gate's Daniel Johnston-like catatonia and self imposed privacy. Around half the tracks are in actual fact songs, the accompanying guitar-asdidgeridoos, keyboards and circling feedback repetitionsframing a very basic guitar/vocals set up.
The name of the project is an additional clue. Taken alongside the cottage on the sleeve, it connotes an almost Heideggerian domesticity, an impression compounded by the awesome title track, seemingly constructed out of all the distant noises a house makes - machinery in the basement, strangely foregrounded created out of gultar and amp end of the album when the last - worth keeping tabs on. In its second half, Morley sings what could well be a Dylan number performed by Thurston Moore with a bad cold, its simplistic chord structures making a subtle point that The Dead C and Gate, outwardly fetishising noise and experimentation, soundwise perfectly at home alongside a group like Main, are in fact folk singers for an age in which the concept of a folk to sing to has been obliterated, leaving them mumbling deliriously to themselves. Jakubowski, The Wire, Feb 1995
While it would be a lie to say that the kids have been camping outside HMV demanding more product, new Dead C material has been much anticipated for some time. Now, at last, in the form of a primer for their forthcoming studio album Tusk (ha ha), we've got Repent, a limited edition live recording from God knows where. All the Dead C trademarks are present: 'process' made apparent (tape runs out, guitars cut in, audience members mutter, some guy claps), guitars not so much played as gazed at or kicked (feedback tone-howls, riffs stumbled upon), cardboard box production values (rumor has it that they actually seal their amps inside cardboard boxes before miking them up). Certainly, the level of (non) fidelity on this disc is informed by the aesthetic that runs through all of their projects: it's an anti-skill/anti-corporate stance which manifests itself in primitive hand-made packages, limited-run lathe-cut 7"s and Free-Noise manifestos----the fullest realization of punk. Via two guitars, drums and a truly no-nonsense approach to improvisation they summon up demonic belches of electric sparks, their dual guitar attack carrying all the weight and immediacy of the greatest rock. There's no mistaking their aim of expanding rock's vocabulary. Alongside a host of other New Zealand luminaries (Gate, Flies Inside the Sun, Trash, Sandoz Lab Technicians, A Handful of Dust), they're freeing rock music from rhythmic constraints (Robbie Yeats on drums often sounds like he's playing lead, not that the guitarists pay him any heed), just to watch it take off. - from David Keenen, The Wire
Repent (Siltbreeze, 1996) collects six more, now untitled, about ten minutes each. Slow, almost addicted to heroin, wrapped in excruciating hissing, the first track is developed according to the crescendo of suspense of early Pink Floyd. The second stretches curious noises on a dance rhythm redskin that turns into a beat monolithically hypnotic. The fourth is an orgy of excess sound, a riot anti-engineer who buries the science of counterpoint under a thick layer of piercing hiss, hum of wheels, clanging stun. from http://www.scaruffi.com/vol6/deadc.html (translated)
Maybe they're still messing around with ways of-recording the band, as whatever Bruce Russell (I believe) is doing on the second half of the album-opening "Plane" seems to just be bleeding through someone else's mic or something. I like this cut - it's even more nothing than they usually are - Michael Morley is seriously playing downer raunchy guitar chords while sleeping here. It's rock and roll! you ought to hear it. Don't know how great it works in terms of the album-structure, though - a super-weird, superlong cut to start the album that doesn't sound much like the other cuts? Balance is missing.
Everyone seems to be pondering: Why did they say this is their "first real Rock album?" Maybe it's to do with energy and volume. Michael Morley may just be up in the mix, but seems louder than normal on "Head," and Robbie Yeats is really pounding. Bruce Russell is off on some noise guitar extended techniques. The only overdub (other than the voice) is some maracas: nice to just hear the three of them playing (was nice on the first cut, too). This is one of their all-time most classic cuts: an epic ten-plus-minutes of Michael Morley Is couple-of-chords-(and riffing off the chords)-played-whenever thing, (more rock oriented and rhythmic than Jandek though, of course) that is, like "Plane," even looser than normal. Cool that that's this band's invention and progression for 1996 or whenever this was recorded: get more loose (in the raunch, rock context I mentioned, though)
Folks are saying it's more free-noise-oriented than ever, but only so when Michael Morley lets go of his usual downer raunch rock guitar on "Half" to make (minimal) noise along with Bruce. And hey--if it was rock when he was playing the rock guitar, it's still rock when he's stopped. (Robbie Yeats is still laying out a Rock beat - anything over that is rock.) The synth on "Half" is the best incorporation of the synth they've had yet.
Still rock when Michael Morley merely cranks up the fuzz on "Imaginary," too! It's a one-chord song (yay!), but that doesn't mean it's free noise (you wouldn't have called "Radar Eyes" free noise)! It's not! I mean it is, but it's still rock. That is, this is their "first real Rock album," and this cut pounds too. "Imaginary" and "Head" both have free noise endings, but only ones that are mere endings to Rock songs.
Still rock too when Michael Morley merely gets more aggressive on "Tusk" in that it's still-of same riffing chordal textural backbone. More incorporation (not random!) of the synthesizer actually into ood the song here, too. And notice the "gets more-aggressive" thing--this is THEIR FIRST REAL ROCK ALBUM! They really spray out the jams, and this is definitely their best album yet.
They're a little tough to take in large doses, so take it one cut at a time or as seems appropriate EVEN THOUGH IT'S A CD AND YOU CAN'T SEE THE CUTS AND WHEN YOU PUT IT ON IT JUST PLAYS THE WHOLE THING ALL THE WAY THROUGH. - by Tim Ellison, Rock Mag!
Why is this THE band among '90s art-rock cognoscenti? Why has their dirgey howling become the sound of the international art-damaged underground, identifiable in everything from Bardo Pond to Cat Power? Their stab at Art here--"Plane," a minimalist-style sound sculpture consisting of 10 minutes of clicking train-like effects--never breaks into anything strange or dislocating enough to be called avant-garde. And as rockers, they can sound suspiciously like the worst band in the world--like teenagers out in the garage who only last week discovered Flipper. But within the wreckage, there are moments when you begin to understand. Their sound is basically an extension of clanging postpunk dissonance and rock demolition. There is a roiling, shredding guitar on top; a droney, menacingly sustained guitar under that; and at bottom are plodding drums that at first listen sound borderline incompetent. Much of the time, these elements are arranged haphazardly, working themselves into a diffuse and aimless frenzy. But there are times when Dead C get it right. Really right. At these moments, perfect junctures of art noise and rock momentum, the band stop demolishing things and pick up what they've got left. Six minutes into "Head" the drums come to life, stretching the tempo, upping it from lumbering to monolithic (a la Flipper). Then the vocals slide in, a voice utterly distorted and slurred, droning like another guitar. The next song, "Tuba," is a heavy-riffed sludgefest, with vocals screeching off the top. These two tracks--buzzing, ominous, burrowing beneath the tuneful sheen of punk--find the band taking what's usable from their junkyard of noise and fusing it into an original sound, a small, formal innovation, a brief glimpse of rock at its most frighteningly uncorked. - by Steve Tignor, Puncture
On Tusk New Zealand's The Dead C forsake riffage and momentum for a series of bleary, sonically dense free improvisations. Although stray Fleetwood Mac fans suckered by the title might gain some solace from Robbie Yeats's occasional 60 second bursts of gunshot snare, elsewhere The Dead C’s noise remains beautifully unanchored. Which is a kick in the eye for anyone who still even vaguely casts them as some lo-fi trio of stumble-rockers. For sure, the fidelity isn't exactly 'hi' - indeed, it's positively damaged - but whether out of economic necessity or aesthetic choice (and I'd plump for the latter), the distressed sound cloaks the whole in an eerie edge-of-the-world ghost light that is uniquely theirs. The 11 minute "Plane" kicks off the record in suitably out style with the rattle of buckets sounding like a dented take on Harry Partch's Intrusions before splicing into some beautifully understated guitar trade-offs. "Head" starts off precariously, with guitarists Michael Morley and Bruce Russell pulling away from each other, one grappling intensively with a single string while the other wrestles with an overloaded amp until the drums crash in on them, forcing the whole lot over the top. "Tuba" cuts straight to the point wi th 90 seconds that border on coherence, in the shape of a hammered riff that sounds like Tony Williams Lifetime rehearsing a block away. Vocal interjections are few and virtually unintelligible, more textural disruption than actual singing. "Tusk" itself rounds off the set with the players going all out in several different directions. Every repeated spin turns up something different every time you hear it, for music this splayed is impossible to recall until you're right in the middle of it. The Dead C have taken on the legacy of decades of freedom play and acted on it with nothing but a cassette recorder and a set of beaten up instruments. The resulting disc's overwhelming sense of bloodpumping urgency makes it a simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating listening experience. - DAVID KEENAN, The Wire, Feb 1998
There is no mistaking the Dead C's Tusk with the Fleetwood Mac album of the same title. Although both sound like experimental magnum opuses, the Dead C is merely doing its usual business. Even so, the standard issue Dead C cuts through the warm experimental arrangements of the Big Mac's Tusk like a wolverine tearing through a pack of poodles. Michael Morley (guitar, feedback), Bruce Russell (guitar, feedback) and Robbie Yeats (drums, guitar, feedback) have stripped most everything musical from their music, leaving a difficult but opaque sound: guitars roar and snarl indecipherably, punctuated by simple, but ever-shifting, drum beats. Vocals occasionally make an appearance, but they are usually buried amidst the fray. The Dead C's music is more a visceral attack upon convention than something to shake your rump to, even when the band plays quietly (as on "Plane"). Capable of causing headaches, scaring listeners, annoying your annoying neighbors and redefining your threshold for pain, this record is only for the intrepid. Nevertheless, it is this edge that makes the band so loved among the small but loyal group of listeners that buy everything the band releases. The band's tenth full-length, Tusk once again delivers salvation to the faithful. Looking for a thrill? Check out the stupendous "Head" (10:55) or the more time-friendly "Half" (5:15). - from College Music Journal
Tusk (Siltbreeze, 1998), perched around the terrible ugliness Tusk (twelve minutes sabbath hell with the pounding beat of the Sister Ray In the Velvet Underground), of Plane (eleven minutes of confused percussion and found objects) of Half (five minutes dissonances and Radio Frequency), the Imaginary (seven minutes gasps funeral and delirious cacophony), and Head (eleven minutes of hallucinatory distortion in crescendo), reported the Dead C to the glorious season of White House. - from http://www.scaruffi.com/vol6/deadc.html (translated)
For 17 years, The Dead C have been close to lying when calling themselves a rock group, for the frayed threads that connect them to bluesbased structures are always on the verge of snapping. If it were up to guitarist Bruce Russell — an admitted non-musician — the group might freefall into pure noise improvisation; but it’s not, as Michael Morley interjects his mumbling voice and numbly indifferent, post-VU guitar strum into rumpled, primitive rock songs. The Damned capitalizes on these counterpoints, particularly through percussionist Robbie Yeats’s shifts between agile free jazz stumble and demonstrative rock stomps. The album’s opener “Truth” is a thud rock mantra with discordant shards of feedback nestled into a simple march for abraded guitar chords and a huge backbeat. The album fluctuates through extended periods of disintegration into textured noise before coalescing back into the subtle, Morley-led tunes. Nobody does this better than The Dead C. - The Wire, 2002
Relax Fallujah – Hell Has Come 7"
Discussions of The Dead C generally centre on aesthetics and cultural context, but few commentators highlight the group’s political backbone. Relax Fallujah – Hell Has Come offers one opportunity for redress. “Power”, recorded in 1990, was written in response to the December 1989 US invasion of Panama; the subtitle “Fallujah Version”on this single references the US occupation of the Iraq city from 2003 onwards. “Power” focuses on civilian impact: “My baby was shot, my house was bombed/I’ve got no food, there is no water” – an excoriation of the quotidian effect of what guitarist Bruce Russell once referred to as “America’s natural tendency towards imperial muscle flexing”. On the flipside, “Bad Politics” shifts focus to personal-political in one of the group’s most straight-rocking songs. But the mournful tenor of “Power” is most persuasive: “All we want is for you to be outta here.” JON DALE, The Wire, December 2006
The Dead C Perform Vain, Erudite And Stupid: Selected Works 1987– 2005
The Dead C’s evolution from scratchy, blurry post-punk collagists to roaring, blurry, Prog rock delugists is recapitulated here over two discs. The clear continuities are the muss and stumble of distorting and detuned guitars, and the solid forward motion of the spare, sharp drumming which cuts through them. Tic-like guitar figures and dirgey, slow moan vocals are also career-spanning trademarks. That The Dead C ‘perform’ these tracks underscores the vital role of real time interplay, the live, improvisatory energy they harness, and an openness to accident and chance which extends even to the tape edits used in constructing some tracks. The title’s self-deprecation signals a distinguishing ethos. Next to their notional forebears, extra-academic experimentalists in the USA (LAFMS, say) and the UK (ReR groups), New Zealand’s Dead C have hit both ways with their modernist interests in the difficult, the artless and the new. Moments in older records – the guitar noise of Frith and Cutler’s Live In Prague And Washington, for example – certainly sound like The Dead C, as do parts of the timewarp blackout of Guru Guru’s UFO. Yet they have been less happy to be seen as either rock or as art, while acknowledging, with no little irony, that they lean on both frames of reference. It might be partly a small town phenomenon that they hybridise a very arty, middle class avant gardism with a ‘really can’t play much’ punk starting point. Cabaret Voltaire’s Live At The YMCA is a closer comparison: Industrial minus the urban, the Gothic and the machine infatuation? Tom Lax’s flu and cough syrup allegory in the liner notes hits something on the head: as a rock group, The Dead C emulate an embrace of comfortable numbness, the sound of oblivion happily pursued. The equally indescribable alchemy between the three core members’ divergent sensibilities could be taken as the defining thing, and their china anniversary is as worthy of celebration as any unlikely but successful marriage. These discs do so by compiling selections from almost all of their releases. “3 Years”, from the Xpressway Pile-Up cassette, is one of the rarer inclusions, and for those who might not have it, the track left off the CD version of Harsh 70s Reality is generously picked. Generally, though, it’s just one or two of the strongest tracks per album, in chronological order. This simple sequence makes excellent listening, refreshing things for those familiar with the tracks in their original contexts, and offering newcomers a comprehensive overview of their output. JON BYWATER
New Electric Music
Ah, what The Dead C could do if they only tried a little harder. New Zealand’s favorite lo-fi avant-slackers have a knack for creating music that’s shambolic but charming - and that stands for their new album New Electric Music - when it’s clear that they could have rivaled the likes of Sonic Youth if they only could be bothered. Opening with a subdued - to the point of being dead - amble through electric guitar hum, New Electric Music brings together influences from free jazz, drone rock and lo-fi noise into a whole that’s never less than agreeable, if only very intermittently exhilarating. And, frankly, it’s music that astonishes that I’m looking for. “Rush” offered a combination of rumble-stomached guitar grind with aimless free jazz squeak. “Repulsion” is a considerably more satisfying blend of swaying electronics and shivery cymbal play, while “Stand” switches from quiet dejection into an angry thrash-dirge. They also offer up a perfectly listenable half-hour of rhythmic industrial noise, with few surprises. I found it all somewhat disheartening but fans would possibly disagree. - Brian Dugiud, The Wire
The rock songs on recent Dead C albums, while entirely satisfying on their own, have seemed like red herrings, gestures to throw you off the scent left by the cut-up constructions, swirling noise baths and desultory soundscapes that have dominated their recordings over the last decade. So what to make of Secret Earth? Each of its four tracks sports grimy guitar riffs, driving drumbeats, and a purgative, moaning vocal; it may be corroded and crumbling, but it’s undeniably rock music. This might seem like a big backward step for an ensemble that has made it a point to assert their antagonism to the supremacy of song form, but once you’ve embraced entropy, what’s progress? If the medieval images that used to adorn their album covers represented anything more than an extreme version of retro cool, these New Zealanders don’t believe in progress anyway; the good days are behind us and the Black Death is waiting up ahead. On Secret Earth they pick up long-discarded threads of old ideas and braid them into long, coarse ropes; The Dead C might not actively reject the song this time out, but they certainly aren’t averse to stringing one up to see how it’ll twist in the wind. On “Plains”, for example, Michael Morley sings unintelligible sentiments with palpable urgency, even panic, perhaps at the prospect of being overrun by the diminutive echoes of his voice and drummer Robbie Yeats’s big, blindly driving beats. But it is ultimately Morley’s own grinding guitar and Bruce Russell’s broad swathes of feedback that do his utterances in. Without them the song stumbles, then collapses, its progress that of the proverbial headless chicken. Far from a nostalgia trip, it’s a stern test of just what a song can withstand. Bill Meyer, The Wire
Like a snake lunching on its own tail, The Dead C have come full circle. The sluggish guitar chords and steadfast drumming on this all-instrumental album and its immediate predecessor,the song based Secret Earth, sound more like the rusted rock of their late 1980s recordings for Flying Nun than the chunky electronic soup of their early 2000s releases.But anyone who thinks that Michael Morley,Robbie Yeats and Bruce Russell are taking a step back miss the point that they’ve never cared about progress anyway.
You might not either if, like them, you lived in New Zealand, whose picturesque vistas belie travails like earthquakes, a depopulating interior, an unstable economy and the sort of fraying infrastructure that could permit the capital city’s downtown to go without power for a month.Shaped by such circumstances, their discography is a map of decay, and corrosion is everywhere on Patience.
It’s present in the down-tuned crumble of Morley’s sullen strumming,the abrasive squall of Russell’s synth and guitar,and even the defiantly traditional beats that Yeats uses to undermine the other two men’s swirling electric maelstrom.But just as a pristine acoustic note derives beauty from its own decay,there’s something glorious about the way The Dead C’s rock crumbles. The way that the grimy electric textures and trudging beats of “Empire” refuse to give up the ghost for over a quarter of an hour before dissolving into the flickering, radioactive drizzle of “Federation” feels positively heroic.And as thrilling as it is to hear Morley and Yeats force the riff on “South” from a continuation of the torpid coda to the last side of their 20 year old album Harsh 70s Reality into a shuddering jam, it’s even more exciting to hear Russell batter it with rusty wrecking balls of amp buzz. Bill Meyer, The Wire
The Dead C are the Dunedin group who are just too cool: too cool even for Flying Nun, too cool for New Zealand. Hence their relative anonymity here and their iconic underground status in the UK and the US. Lauded by critics, championed by "important alt rock" bands like Sonic Youth and The Dead Sea, they are applauded from afar, unknown at home. Most of their albums are available only as high-priced imports here in Godzone. So what's all the the fuss about? Having witnessed them in concert and examined several of their recordings, this reviewer admits to finding the Dead C intermittently intriguing, but resolutely fails to understand the source of wonderment. Virtually synonymous with the lo-fi phenomenon, The Dead C currently make music that verges on rock-based free improvisation, but without any semblance of instrumental virtuosity and a total disregard for sound quality or the theatre of performance. Some of the most heart-rending music released in the last 30 years has taken full advantage of the strange and beguiling qualities which eventuate from the skilled manipulation and degradation of sound signals. Holgar Czukay's shortwave radio recordings of Vietnamese singers, transposed on to an odd, off-kilter ambient backdrop, alchemised a result that showed up Deep Forest' s hi-fi colonialist appropriation of pygmy voices for what it was. English post-punk adventurers This Heat made phenomenally affective sound collages which degraded with the layering, but retained all the integrity of sonic emissions above the beautiful tape hiss. Unfortunately, the Dead C just don't seem to care to maintain any semblance of audio expression. In any case, DR503C is an odd and irregular release, and a strange choice for Flying Nun to decide to flog. This is a collection of the very earliest recorded material, dating from 1987 and '88 and they really would have been better left rotting under someone's student flat. You'd have to be an ardent fan to want this relic from a time the Dead C were still attempting songs, complete with embarrassing narrations and headache-inducing distortion. It's sad how accurately their success recognises how desperate the search for authenticity has become. Genesis are the antithesis, musically and philosophically, of the Dead C. (continues with a review of a Genesis compilation album...) - From New Zealand's Sunday Star-Times, October 31 1999 by Gary Steel.
LIVE CHRISTCHURCH CLOUD 9 NEW ZEALAND
Self-reliant and uncompromisingly persistent through 16 years of local indifference, 17 albums and numerous related activities, The Dead C have outstretched edge-of-the-world isolation to connect with a cult-sized international audience. A jumble of increasingly disintegrating riff-based songs, freeform noise and murky esoteric suggestion covers an awesome body of work the equal of more lauded peers like Sonic Youth, Royal Trux or Flying Saucer Attack.
Despite Bruce Russell’s bleak forewarnings, their first New Zealand show in nearly three years draws a decent crowd. Though a glaring empty arc of floorspace around the stage impedes close connection, it’s rapidly obvious they still harness the group telepathy and hallucinatory power of earlier live recordings. Fully improvised, tonight’s rollercoaster sprawl swirls and sluices over its own churning debris, shifting weight, slowing back before surging anew. Standing over tabletop guitar, a small battery of effects, tape loops and electronics, Russell punches layered noise-loops in and out, whilst a seated Michael Morley responds with guitar, delays, and Powerbook over Robbie Yeats’s straightforward rock drums. Tonight this is both the music’s binding, driving force and biggest stumbling block: sporadically descending to a basement pounding that prosaically grounds their flight.
Following an inauspicious opening exchange, the trio suddenly ease into cohesion (and intuitive understanding of pace, weight, space), beneath the forceful drumming. Morley and Russell’s mewling squall of melted-out guitar/electronic noise fuses into one big liquid mess. Trading feedback trails over a looped refrain from Fennesz’s “Paint It Black” before dragging it apart, Morley leans into the mic, loosing an impenetrable monotone drawl.
It’s not all vital, and there’s something strangely demystifying in confronting something I’d only previously experienced on record as distant, edited myth. Still, any occasional flatness is ultimately torched in a shambled slew of dazzling fragments: the sudden violent glow of a guitar; the chipped black paint on Morley’s fingernails; Yeats’s continual grinning; a stunning section where everything thins down to a pulsing ember, guitars clanging like collapsing steel beams; their retained collective ability to bend time and induce a kind of blasted hypnosis. This isn’t a towering, jaw-dropping inferno of a show, more a messy, life-affirming meeting of three old friends getting off on interaction and briefly immersing a location in their alchemical flood. In its unassuming way, Dead C’s hour onstage offers a flawed outpouring of energy that, at its blistering peak, still sets a fire in your heart. - DAVID HOWELL, The Wire, October 2003
A sprawling double-CD album, covers material ranging from 1995 till 1999. Technologically, it displays Broader skills than previous recordings (Particularly for samples and tape manipulation), but the inspiration is only occasionally up to the task. One is left with the feeling That most of this material is leftovers from previous recordings. The 33-minute Speederbot marks One of their peaks, though. When the trio of Russell, Morley and Yeats succeed, it is Often in the merging of free-jazz and raga techniques. It is not a coincidence That a few tracks recall Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix. Dead C (Language, 2000), a monumental double album covers material recorded between 1995 and 1999. Technologically speaking, highlights a skill in handling `higher sampling and tapes, but the inspiration is only from time to time at par. It almost seems that it is more than remnants of compositions more. That 33-minute, Speederbot , it is still one of the most brilliantly extremists their moments of their careers. When the trio of Russell, Morley and Yeats engages the right gear, it is often in the fusion of free-jazz techniques and raga. Not by chance a few tracks reminiscent of the Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix. from http://www.scaruffi.com/vol6/deadc.html (translated)
Excellent new album from New Zealand avant-punk gods The Dead C: with every new Dead C record you really wanna be able to say that its as on-form as the pre-Tusk recordings and while Ive enjoyed the last few records, they have never turned out to be discs that I actually returned to much. But this one instantly hits the spot. Four long tracks that push Michael Morley way up front (exactly where you want him), with some of his most elegaically stoned vocals over actual riffs, inspired destructo breakdowns and some great, loose improvisations, all anchored by Robbie Yeats amazing machine gun drumming. The final 12 minute Waves is up there with Outside on The White House in terms of slowly exploded song forms and extended rock oblivion. David Keenan, Volcanic Tongue
Much anticipated new LP from the greatest rock band on the planet, New Zealand’s The Dead C: Armed Courage comes with a sleeve that looks like a renaissance painting of 20th century unrest, a feel that is bolstered by the non-temporal feel of the protesting sonics. Indeed, The Dead C have so completely formulated their own hermetic soundworld that the music now has a timeless quality, broadcast from some edge of the world singularity that is somehow always changing yet remaining, essentially, the same. Armed Courage continues the heroic tradition of one word Dead C titles with two massively extended side long pieces, “Armed” and “Courage”. “Armed” is phenomenal. Robbie Yeats sets up an almost-groove, not so much Can as Xhol Caravan, over which guitarists Bruce Russell and Michael Morley collide in peaking waves of six string euphorics. The feel is somewhere between the endless brokedown Crazy Horse-isms of a track like “Outside” from The White House and the kind of bloodyminded amplifier worshipping instrumentalism of albums like New Electric Music. It feels anthemic while still managing – somehow – to undermine every conventional signifier of ‘rock anthem’. Which is precisely what makes them the greatest rock band on the goddamn planet. The flip, however, is even better. “Courage” updates the fractured up-close song style of Trapdoor Fucking Exit with some of Morley’s most implosive and teetering on the edge vocal narcoleptics, power crying over slowly teased out chords with the feel of true desolation blues, with Russell’s guitar moving from static hovering drones to suddenly collapsing downer chords while Yeats overthrows any notion of progression or forward momentum, opting for statements that have very little to do with time and function more as punctuation, grammar or even parallel visions of routes not taken or openings to pathways unexplored. How The Dead C continue to carve unforgettable ‘songs’ from the sparest of settings – just expiring chords, the sound of pure electricity and a drummer that plays lead – is still beyond me but this is an unforgettable work, a new apex of long-form thought from the group and the kind of album that burns itself into your brain but that still somehow remains out of reach, prompting compulsive repeat spinning in order to crack its ‘simple’ codes. A modern masterpiece. There remains no one like them. Highest possible recommendation. David Keenan, Volcanic Tongue
The Twelfth Spectacle (Grapefruit 4xLP)
Sprawling. Massive. Overwhelming. These terms are thrown around so often when marketing records from the bigger is better standpoint they’ve almost lost their meaning entirely. Admittedly, part of enjoying records can come from a sense of awe that artists are so committed to an idea they’re prepared to pour huge resources into presenting their vision. But they tend to crop up especially when discussing The Dead C, even in the single album format, and no matter what they’re actually doing. The Twelfth Spectacle, culled from five performances between 2002–13 and spread across four individually titled pieces of vinyl, manages to live up to these descriptors. Expanse has always been a key to The Dead C’s project, and it makes a certain sense that at this point, 25 years into their career as godfathers of noise rock, they present a quadruple live set – a project which straddles the fine line between the group finding an ideal large size format for their sound, and legendary status having gone to their heads. They now function more as a classic rock group than they probably ever expected. They don’t run through the hits, but they do play a particular breed of improvised rock that sounds like no one else. And it’s hard to tell if they’re happy about it. In the 1990s they explored Harsh 70s Reality, now they state as plain as can be, through the title of one of the enclosed LPs, that This Century Sucks. As a listening experience the set works well. When they’re on a roll, The Dead C operate between form and formlessness, and it’s satisfying to hear them barely congeal, time and time again, before inevitably swimming away from each other. It’s the kind of music that perhaps works best when travelling, the ebbing and flowing of the group complementing the passing landscape. But there is a certain tension between the cumulative effect over the four LPs making up the entire set, and the question of whether the material might have been better served through editing. The end of the second side of Year Of The Rat features some baffling drumming, Yeats coming off like an overexcited teenager trying to play funk but unable to figure it out. The incredibly annoying, purposefully aimless guitar flailing near the start of Permanent LSD’s second side helps nothing, and yet by the time you’ve been through it all, those moments have faded into memory. You’re left with the feeling of having experienced a journey with all of its inevitable ups and downs, varying modes of movement, and exhilarations. - Matt Krefting, The Wire
The Dead C’s music carries a peculiar tension that’s less to do with what’s present than what’s absent. Drummer Robbie Yeats always sounds slightly disconnected from the action, like he’s playing variations on rock rhythms as he waits for guitarist Bruce Russell and guitarist, vocalist and laptopper Michael Morley to join in. But then, no one ever really does – and if they do, the elements rarely cohere for long. This is evident throughout the group’s latest effort. At times the 20 minute “1” sounds like it’s screaming to be a song, with hints of ugly fuzz guitar riffs that soon burn themselves out and snatches of vocal melody blown in on the wind; then Yeats just stops playing. The guitars and electronics disintegrate into a cloud of noise with one guitar played through an odd device emitting high-pitched squall with gnat-like insistence. Yeats starts up again with a snare drum rhythm that sounds like a man chopping wood. Finally the noise cloud slowly dissipates into wisps drifting over a trembling loop in an oddly moving coda. The self-absorbed guitars on the shorter “3” howl interminably through most of the piece, one of them occasionally adding some wah-wah redolent of Faust’s “It’s A Bit Of A Pain”. And just when you feel The Dead C’s sonic palette has become monotonous, the behemothic riff of “5” kicks in, but true to form, any momentum soon dissolves into abstraction. Drolly placed out of sequence, “4” closes the 80 minute collection with the trio’s most extreme excursion. Yeats tinkers around on cymbals, plays the snare, briefly get some traction with the others, does a few rolls, but he’s finally swept up in the weight of sound, which eventually splinters and fades into crackling circuitry and feedback over a watery drone. Like much else in this physically demanding set, it’s strangely beautiful and poignant in ways difficult to explain. Mike Barnes, The Wire
Gate - Golden CD. The news that many of the long-unobtainable Gate singles have now been compiled on one compact disc is sure to send palpitations lurching through the hearts of residents in finder retirement homes up and down New Zealand. After all, it's no coincidence that the New Zealand dollar soon began to lose strength against its American counterpart shortly after this CD's release - it only happened because Precious Metal can no longer hold the American market to ransom. Now that the world can enjoy all four sides of the Julian Dashper Gate Experience in stereo fidelity, without even having to get out of bed, things aren't quite what they used to be in the exchange rate world. Business confidence is rising, inflation is dropping, monetary policy is being relaxed, and export profit has been restored; such far-reaching and widely-felt social repercussions alone make Golden an essential acquisition, no matter what your stance on this whole Interesting Markup Decision thing. [IMD, P.O. Box 730, Dunedin] - from Opprobrium #1
Bruce Russell/Michael Morley split 7"
It's no secret that Dunedin self-portrait artist Michael Morley recently took time out from his busy letter-writing schedule to record a split/duo 7", Radiation, with some guy who doesn't paint called Bruce Russell. Once you get past the record's sterling Table of the Elements packaging parody (if you even can, because it is pretty funny), you'll find that the real sentimental journey here is Bruce's "Four Letters," a proto-Dust recitation-cum-noise-rake, abetted by a 23 Skidoo sample that I'm proud to say I didn't, don't, and never will recognize. MM's "Radiation" rescues that legendary 1990 Dead C. session wherein Scott Krauss subbed for Robbie Yeats. Many American anthropologists had thought it permanently lost, but her it is, in all its archival glory. "Enjoy." [Corpus Hermeticum] - from Opprobrium #1
Gate - The Dew Line 2xLP reissue
In 1994, when those outside New Zealand had little in the way of information, having a record by Gate, or Michael Morley’s better known unit, The Dead C, probably felt like secret wisdom. Hearing these blown-out, ramshackle heaps of voice and guitar (and drums, which are in here too somewhere, sometimes) would have been even more stupefying. What possible reference point could there be for the way the title track shifts, two-thirds through, from scuzzy lowfrequency drone to wounded blues dirge, complete with cat-moan vocals? If you say you got it at that time, you’re a liar. But how does The Dew Line sound now, when we have all the information we could ever need, and there are no secrets? In the spirit of the age, this reissue gives us more to chew on, expanding the original release’s seven tracks to 12 and tweaking the sequence. And more, in this case, really is more. Each track still feels like the first time. On the ten minute “Venerable Clouds”, his voice – not exactly singing, because these are creepy somnambulant chants, not crooning – doesn’t appear until halfway through, as though at some point he just figured he should start singing. Every chord change feels a revelation, or stumbled upon – take your pick. Each riff rings fresh and heavy. Within each song, Morley also plays a neat compression trick with time. The 12
minutes of “Have Not” and the minute and a half of “Tuba Is Funny” feel the same, and the whole album blurs into a sweet haze of amp hum and fuzz pedal distortion. Morley might not be a secret anymore, but here he sounds free, unencumbered, a salve for oversaturated ears. - Matt Wuethrich
GATE 577 Crash 7-inch (Precious Metal); Amerika LP (Majora). 577 Crash is 'Latent H.M. Rights' Parts 2, two sides of rumbling, menacing tape/synth din with some excellent muffled 'vocals'. Like, totally buried, man. Amerika is split into 3 parts. Part 1, occupying all of side 1, transposes voiceless, moody 6-string abstractions on a machine-like droning hum. Parts 2 & 3 are more muted and desolate, making for very disquieting listening. There's no climax here - Gate avoid a neat resolution, wisely opting for an alienating synth-drone. Frankly, it's a masterpiece of obtuseness, the sound of real beauty. Nothing else tapers off into oblivion like this. Gate continue(s) to confound - much better than these it just does not get. - by Nick Cain, de/Create
GATE - Julian Dashper Gate Experience 2x7" (Precious Metal)
Apart from their/his label-hopping prolificness here in the states, GATE quietly release 7" vinyl pressings in NZ. I think the label's called Precious Metal, but seeing as how all three of the records have been in runs of less than 50, I'll simply refer to it as Geraldine Scum. I wish (for your sake) I could say that these little records were not worth tracking down, nor the incredulous sums they'd cost, that it was all just a sham, but the truth is... let's just say the truth doesn't mean shit. The first two were done and gone some time ago, but this third one is "just" "out" and it's the one to drool over; a dbl gatefold package, complete with hand-screened quasi-Hexen graphics, not to mention the debut of a drummer! The feel of this one is even more left of center than any previous -- less guitar/synth noise-slush, less Dead C outtake, more drunk Archie Shepp. Only it's wires, wires and drums. It's focused. It's unfocused. It's beautiful. - by Tom Lax, Superdope
GATE - THE LAVENDER HEAD 3 and THE WISHER TABLE
Good luck tracking down these tiny pressings, released mmugh New Zealand's stalwart avant rocker Michael Morley's Precious Metal label. On Gate's The Lavender Head 3, Morley moves away from the sprawling hypno-noise rock of his work in The Dead C to enter into the realm of electronics. His woozy guitar blurriness wrapped in a turgid, bass-heavy distortion is definitely present, but here it's secondary to electronics's non-specific breakbeats, cosmic pulsations and electronic squiggles, all muddied by Morley's effects and amps.Truth be told, in the past he has frequently chosen his samples carelessly, and The Lavender Head 3 continues that bad habit with its far too obvious citation of This Heat's 'The Fall Of Saigon". Datingfrom 1997 but only now seeing the light of day, The Wisher Table is much better. On this album Gate are James Kirk, Sally Millennium and Nathan Thompson, alongside Morley. Even as a full group they make the sloppy, smeared dirge muck that defines Gate's quintessential recordings, Metric and The Dew Line. Overloaded in grey noise distortion, Morley's lazy guitar strum and equally lethargic voice have the intelligibility and pathos of an old drunk mumbling through a megaphone. With its exceptional representations of abjection and despair, Morley appears more comfortable on The Wisher Table than Gate's recent, interesting forays into lo-fi electronica.
TANAKA NlXON MEETING TWELVE INCHES HEAVEN
The Dead C's Michael Morley making references to 'down right dirty funk in the now" is almost as unseemly as an octogenarian politician 'throwin' down props to my peeps". As in his last few Gate recordings,The Tanaka-Nixon Meeting, Morley's group with fellow New Zealand dinscraper Danny Butt, clumsily embed samples of Amen breaks, The Aphex Twin and Reinhardt Voigt in dense tape hiss.The formula works during the album's minimal moments, where once crystalline forms of MicroHouse are muddled into Techno thuds and grimy atmospheres.Yet with its cacophonous drum 'n' bass samples, the rest of the album's rhythms are woozy and seasick. Maybe Morley just hasn't gotten the hang of electronica.
Gate - Damned Revolutions
Freeform guitar, it seems, is a game of two sides – the possibilities and constraints of the LP seem to provide the preferred format for guitar experimenters across the globe. On Damned Revolutions, Michael Morley – these days an art teacher in Dunedin, New Zealand as well as guitarist in The Dead C’s occasional activities – provides two related suites of exploratory guitar. “Turned And Glowing Inwardly” combines the sweeping roar of long, loud guitar chords with a writhing, pulsing under-drone of electronics that slowly usher in Morley’s chanting vocals and a soloing guitar fighting to define itself in the glowering din, before the whole piece slowly ebbs and wanes into its own sonic embers. On the flipside, “Turning Towards The Light” rekindles those embers, raising itself slowly into a starker, echoing afterglow of wailing and plaintive guitar, before it to dissolves into a tumbling trickle of reverb tics and sonic artefacts.
Gate - Moonrise
The Dead C’s Michael Morley typically records solo under the Gate moniker. To locate the first and only other album Morley has released under his own name you’d have to scroll all the way back through his extensive discography to 1996’s The Pavilion Of Fools. That album doesn’t sound a lot like Moonrise – and nor does much else Morley has produced over the past three decades. Bar a brief jolt of electric roughly halfway through, Moonrise is performed entirely on acoustic guitar. It’s dominated by “The River” and “Moonrise”, two 14 minute tracks which piece together passages of American primitive-style fingerpicking into fragmented discourses, whose chapter-like episodes are held together with the loosest of connective tissue. None of the repetitions and conclusions favoured by the genre’s more illustrious practitioners are available here, however. Melodic patterns and thematic motifs are alighted on, then abstracted through sidetracks or digressions, or impassively disintegrated, to be reshaped at a later point from a quite different perspective. Nestled around these two works are a trio of shorter pieces, whose closest but still distant relation is late 1980s Dead C, the detuned one-chord dirges on DR503 or the song remnants scattered across Eusa Kills. Morley’s vocals on each sound as disconnected and forlorn as ever, half-moaned and half-crooned, floating uneasily above some nimble fretwork. Song titles like “Night” and “The Storm” and the cover artwork – a blurry photograph of an early morning or late evening horizon view, as regarded through a heavily misted window or car windscreen – reference the landscape and natural elements. For Morley, these everyday physical and spatial environments seem both ineffably powerful and overfamiliar; the album’s regular doubling back and re-evaluation implies that one’s relationship to them is evolving and unfixed. This sense of indecision or reconsideration, and the ambivalence which underpins it, are Moonrise’s defining strengths. Its affective power is all the greater for its reluctance to clarify where it positions itself in relation to the musical traditions it evokes, and its consequent lack of certainty about its own identity and what it might be trying to communicate. - Nick Cain
Gate - Saturday Night Fever LP
What does it take to get a noise dude out on the floor? Why not ask Michael Morley, who has been trying to figure dance music out for some time. Known primarily as guitarist and vocalist for The Dead C, he cast a quizzical glance towards the genre on late 1990s albums like The Lavender Head. Listening back, they’re confusing, leftfield shots, with brutishly manipulated samples submerged in Morley’s characteristic smoky fug of anti-production. Morley picked up this thread on 2010’s A Republic Of Sadness, where crepuscular songs, loosely cast, were buffed to a surprising sheen. His vocals, as bleary-eyed as ever, were the constant. With Saturday Night Fever, things get weirder still – a seeming tribute to the titular phenomenon, down to the detourned logo on the front cover, it takes a while to settle in with these four extended songs and to figure out quite where Morley is going. That said, it’s not so hard to grasp what he’s up to structurally. The modus operandi with Saturday Night Fever, generally, is to set loops gnawing at each other, folding them in and out methodically, almost at odds with the gutsy roughness of the material itself. One big surprise comes when Morley lets recognisable instruments float atop the murk, like the odd violin reel that spindles out of “Licker”, or the horn riff that’s tattooed, awkwardly, over opening track “Asset”. The highlight, though, is in the nakedly bowdlerised grooves of “Caked”, where Morley somehow brilliantly turns classic disco moves into yet another mournful Gate song. The emotional tension here is thrilling even as it jars, particularly when Morley winds a ticker-tape shudder of analogue bliss over the song’s itchy funk. Saturday Night Fever’s weirdness now comes clear – working at right angles to itself, it never quite reaches conclusions about its functionality; yet it’s a queerly compelling listen. If he’s mocking disco, as Pete Swanson suggests in his accompanying notes, it’s a dumbass move, not least because disco’s always been a genre with canny selfawareness. It doesn’t need you, or anyone else, to mock it – it’s pretty good at laughing with itself. But certainly, by “embracing… the form” and trying to find a way through disco, Morley’s explorations are one hell of a blast – almost in spite of themselves. - Jon Dale
A HANDFUL OF DUST Spiritual Libertines CD (Crank Automotive)--For A Handful of Dust, there is an archetypal ancient drawing on the insert card on the inside of this CD's jewel box: a holy man in robes kneeling down, arms outspread and eyes toward the heavens in front of a piano in some ancient music parlor. A long table is behind him with odd ancient string instruments.
This reminds us of A Handful of Dust main man Bruce Russell's assertion in his 1994 "Free Noise Manifesto that "a plurality of goods must prevail" (a plurality of musical goods, in this case). While some no doubt would listen to Spiritual Libertines album opener "A Preface To The Hieroglyphic Monad of Dr. John Dee" (fifteen minutes of single-tone free noise texture from Bruce on feedbacking guitar, Alastair Galbraith on violin, and Peter Stapleton on drums as a "trippy" wallow in the murk of disorientation, its value is rather in its context as a merely circumstancial holy raveup at a particular point in time in the plurality-of-goods/sonic-life that is the A Handful of Dust experience.
Elsewhere on the CD, it's Bruce as a combination Larry Kessler/ Tony Conrad on violin on three cuts from his solo (actually accompanied by his wife on percussion) "Three Dances in Honor of Sabbatai Sevi" 45 spaced out across the album amongst some great cuts which show clearly the prevailing of a plurality of goods. This time the plurality is rounded out with Alastair Galbraith's inspiringly minimal and totally-free violin soaring, Bruce Russell on cheap organ (a tone reminiscent of early-'60's Sun Ra, something also notable on Alastair's synthesizer playing on "The Oneness of Adam Qadmon" interesting percussion, and of course the four-track recording ma chine itself -- as in Bruce's inspired mix of "This World Has More Beauty Than A Lamb's Skin Painted Red."
The choice of texts, the St. John Perse text in the aforementioned "This World..." and the Wittgenstein-or-someone quote on the booklet, are questionable as to their progressive relevance, but sonically A Handful of Dust seem 100% A-OK. Over an hour of this stuff on this CD is an excessive banquert of inspired sounds, sounds, and more sounds. Looking forward to Bruce's new solo 45 of walkietalkie recordings (perhaps inspired by Holger Czukay's groundbreaking work on the dictaphone two decades ago?).
A HANDFUL OF DUST Concord I.p. (Twisted Village), Eulogy for a Riley' and 'Calling Radio Ethiopia' from Crank issue # 4 giveaway single, Fama Fraternitatis" from Bananafish issue # 9 giveaway single--As I suggested in a letter to Allan Horrocks late last year, A Handful of Dust may be the most relevant band since Throbbing Gristle to redefine the rock and roll or folk/popular music format of capturing moments of life, infused with personal passions and allusions to the mystical, by deconstructing the notion as an elemental underlying reason behind what has made the collecting together of songs relevant through Modern history. Similar to TG, with A Handful of Dust you get the sounds of toys, voices of children, text as actual text from the lives as lived of the band members, normal instrumentation used as elemental noise sources, an emphasized sacrosanction of the recording process, and ultimately a grab bag of pieces comprising a vision. A liberating sense is achieved within this assortment by the varied possibilities of instrumentation, the freedom from the defined roles played in normal band line-ups and the quantity of objects to be engaged with at any given time (and their cheapness making it possible within contemporary political structures). To go on with the TG parallels, there's long, horrific noise jams ("Truth's Golden Harrow" off Concord is analagous), but it perhaps ends there. No kitsch-intensification to surrealist ends. No shock-culture fun. Plenty of important allusions, though, to freedom and psychic-awareness based philosophy, mostly Western metaphyshics derived from pioneers such as Robert Fludd, and that is certainly a giant step alluded to for the X- Generation. A Handful of Dust is essentially Bruce Russell, noise guitarist for the Dead C, plus Alastair and whoever is around and thus involved in these collections of rituals. These recordings are only an assortment of the Handful of Dust releases so far. The sparseness of the music gives it a pleasant sense of space, coldness, these are yet more incredible visions from New Zealand. But importantly, also, is how the fractured clamor of a piece like "Come, Breathe Upon These Slain, That They May Live" suggests a historical lineage to the reverence of a hero like Albert Ayler.
from Popwatch magazine:
A HANDFUL OF DUST The Philosophick Mercury (Corpus Hermeticum) A Handful of Dust uses sound to criticize assumptions of which most music lovers are unaware. The standard pop song's organization and structure, they suggest, reflects a self-soothing misapprehension that there is order in the universe. The disc's title intimates Messrs. Russell, Galbraith, and (on the second track) Stapleton's perspective-instability and random events are the order of the day. This point of view is explored at some length in Logopandocy, the digest-sized "Journal of Vain Erudition" that encloses the disc. To drive home the point, A Handful of Dust improvises two lengthy washes of modulated feedback speckled with distorted voices, percussion splashes, and the protests of cruelly mistreated strings suspended over distressed wood. HoD do not play free jazz; they are not instrumental titans like Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, or John Gilmore, nor do they aspire to be. Instead they are stoned philosophers, and The Philosophick Mercury is merely a sampling of their on-going discourse upon which you can eavesdrop. Bill
This is a most remarkable product from the fertile lobes of Mr. Bruce Russell's brain. For comparison's sake, let's pick apart the average release these days: faceless/nondescript music coupled with bland packaging; when pressed for views or thoughts on the basis for creating music, said average band member mumbles some ill thoughtout verbiage into a microphone and it surfaces later in some two-bit fanzine. Not a very compelling picture. Enter this package. Bruce has meticulously (and some might say, pompously, although he does subtitle the release as the "Journal of Vain Erudition"---if you're scrambling for the dictionary over "erudition," good luck reading the text) crafted an eloquent and obtuse theory explaining why he does what he does. Basically, this consists of four distinct parts: the first is a treatise by Robert Fludd that butts heads with the J.S. Bach credo of music as dependent on mathematical concepts, specifically physical postulates such as Kepler's law describing celestial behavior; the second is an interview between erstwhile Sturgeon honcho Danny Buff and Bruce where Bruce elaborates further on his views of music, both conventional and free exposition; the third piece is the CD itself, two live performances that include Alastair Galbraith (who has appeared on earlier HoD stuff) and Peter Stapleton (Pin Group, Dadamah, etc.). Judging from Bruce's mindset, you shouldn't be expecting verse-chorus-verse stuff; instead, the two recordings make typical Dead C stuff look like Helmet (in structure, not sound). The last part of this thesis is an essay concerning colonialism, expansion, and expression. This is a very dense, pedantic package. I'm pretty sure that to understand most of the arguments here, a degree in philosophy would come in a might handy. The CD is one ill-suited for your next party, but applause is in order for such a carefully crafted, intelligent artifact. Tim
Michael Morley - The Pavillion of Fools
Michael Morley is a member of the New Zealand group The Dead C, familiar to UK listeners through a 1994 release on the Shock label World Peace Hope Et AI. . . There, smashed lo-fi rock encountered free improvisation somewhat untidily; this disc is more seamless. The soundtrack for an art installation, it comes in shiny white cardboard with a military map of warning sltes for nuclear attack. Since 1989, early 80s UK paranoia about Europe becoming the theatre for nuclear exchange has abated. New Zealanders are more aware of the facts of radiation and government preparations for holocaust because of the recent mass protests agalnst French nuclear tests. What can mere art do about these issues? Morley arranges blocks of distorted guitar with constructlvist decisiveness. Although each texture is full of activity, occasionally suggesting rock guitar solo excesses and Stooges-style feedback mantras, it is the abrupt transitions that impress. Like Matt Wand of Stock, Hausen & Walkman, he has a sensitivity to the length of a sound's duration that has more in common with early 20th century abstraction than musicianly schooling.
Spoken word samples at the end don't seem a good Idea; they aren't collaged with the skill of the guitar parts, and degrade the unnerving polish of the rest Morley has the fine ear for timbre required for mixing musique concrete. Although this music stems from the lo-fl network, it could just as well be something on the Metamkine label's 'Clnema Pour L'Oreille' series. It's politically inspiring to find someone eschewing both dominant modes of music-making and dominant ways of killing people.
The press release says of the Bomb, "we have only ourselves to blame". Funny that, I thought it was a result of a world economy based on natlonal competition, not a punishment for universal sin. The apolitical consolation of moral myth: an ever-present temptation for would-be appositional art. BEN WATSON, The Wire, April 1996
BRUCE RUSSELL: Maximalist Mantra Music CD (CRANK 8). "With the 25th anniversary of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music merely months away, an update is long overdue. Since Lou is too busy listening to himself talk, someone else has to assume management of the MMM franchise. And as anyone who likes their noise in sheets and their feedback in waves can attest, Bruce Russell has always been an excellent someone else. A legendary sound archivist whose infinite library of textures has been on permanent loan to two of the greatest texture-makers of all-time, the Dead C. and A Handful Of Dust, Russell is the King of the Drones. Maximalist Mantra Music continues his lifelong attempt to extract every possible witch and devil from his array of sound-birthing implements. 'The War Between Desire and Technology (Cut Up)' is a pulsing, undercutting tide of whale cries and guitar feedback. 'On Certain Obsolete Notions' positions electronic stabbing, subliminal chiming, and crowd confusion in a beautifully composed wide shot (the corresponding close-up can be found on the Japanese compilation Heiloglyphitti). 'The War Between Desire and Technology (Tape Version)' relocates the above track in a distant, windy desert, spinning a haunting sand-cloud of ear-echo that will remain forever beyond the horizon. Maximalist Mantra Music is a sonic black hole, a record with zero volume, infinite density, and a gravitational pull that nothing can escape. Embedded in between each one and zero is a pure, monk-like approach to sound construction which is matched beautifully by the chilling geometry of MMM's black and white cover photography. Bruce Russell's year beats your week."