dead c. - the wire, 1995

The Wire, 1995

Like Flying Saucer Attack and their self-styled 'rural psychedelia', the music of New Zealand's Dead C sounds consistently rustic in its appropriation of the kind of guitar-based avant rock techniques pioneered by Sonic Youth, producing a folk/noise hybrid of uncommon power and grace. Their debut album DR503b, recorded in 1987, still sounds contemporary, if only by virtue of the fact that its combination of atonal guitar drones, primitive percussion and elegaic mood has become far more common through the encleavours of America's lo-fi network.

"I don't feel much affinity with lo-fi groups per se," explains the group's Bruce Russell via fax from his base in Auckland. (The other group members are drummer Robbie Yeats and guitarist Michael Morley.) "I identify more with a band like Borbetomagus who release live stereo recordings of collective improvisation. To me, what we do is much more in that kind of jazz tradition. The Americans tend to be more fixated on a sort of a 'shambling' singer/songwriter thing, whereas we are more about collective sound and power I don't want to make wallpaper music, I want people to react to our music. If you want to use a painterly analogy, we're art brut expressionists - outsiders."

Listening to the group's new album The White House, as well as the recent Worid Peace Hope compilation, the trio's sound seems to have become harsher since their inception, 'less timid, less concerned with being well received," as Russell states in his fax "To an extent, we're operating in an insular, self-referential soundworld." One exception to this is the provocative title of their 1990 album, Harsh 70s Reality. As Russell puts it, "I think of it as a response to the whole glamour/nostalgia industry that's sprung up around the 70s thing, eg Urge Overkill in Pulp Fiction. We're harking back to another 70s, the 70s that gave us the first two Kraftwerk LPs, This Heat, early Pere Ubu, The Fall and Cabaret Voltaire. That reality."

All three Dead C members are involved in side projects, with Gate, Michael Morley's collaboration with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, being the most intriguing. 'In Gate, Michael doesn't have to pander to the entrenched prejudices of Robbie or I. He's the dictator for a change," suggests Russell, whose own side project is A Handful Of Dust.

Gate is an even more isolated-sounding venture than Dead C. Their one release, The Dew Line, is a masterpiece of hermeticism, secretive about its origins and almost as private about the emotions it is trying to express. Appropriately, Morley didn't reply to the faxes sent over in time to make the interview, though a new Gate album is due within the month. Given these communication difficulties, Bruce Russell's conclusion is apt enough~ 'We are, for better or worse, an international phenomenon stuck on the arse edge of the world " JAKUBOWSKI

The White House is released this month by Siltbreeze (through Vital). World Peace Hope is available on Shock 56 Beresford Rd, London E9. The Dew Line is released by Table Of The Elements, Box 5524, Atlanta, Georgia 303OZ USA