The Dead C - Trouble 2xLP
Label: Ba Da Bing
The Dead C continue their immensely gratifying third act with Trouble, a double-LP which extends their nearly decade-long working relationship with New York City's Ba Da Bing label, home of the New Zealand trio's last full-length studio effort, 2013's Armed Courage. Eschewing a penchant for some of the greatest song titles in recent memory – e.g. "This Century Sucks" and "Permanent LSD" from 2014's epic 4LP live collection, The Twelfth Spectacle, or "The AMM Of Punk Rock" from 2007's Future Artists – Trouble comprises four side-long tracks and a short excursion into wasted, primitive doom metal that have been given numbers (1 through 5, though not exactly sequential) rather than names, further evidence of The Dead C's bloodyminded, elemental approach.
Trouble begins with Bruce Russell and Michael Morley's snarling, dissonant guitar tones, laid over muffled, swirling pulses of what sounds for all the world like an Echoplex at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, while Robbie Yeats emerges from the squall as a lone drum battery, brandishing a metallic-tinged snare either as weapon or shield against his bandmates' determined onslaught. In fact, one of Trouble's most rewarding effects is that of highlighting his often seemingly desultory drum parts, as the rhythmic (yes! rhythmic!) pull of Yeats's glacial-jazz fills are continually (dutifully, properly) ignored by his compatriots (see especially "2" and "5" for evidence that Trouble is in fact Yeats's moment in the supernova). Ominous droney guitars latticed with piercing feedback tones and melodies disintegrating no sooner than they even consider announcing themselves, occasionally haunted by distant, inchoate vocals and anchored by Yeats's prominent and considerably varied percussion – this is what makes Trouble. Yet it's not all this particular kind of punishment: "3" offers itself as the eye of the storm, as what sound like bass chords ruminate alongside field recordings from guitars on the surface of Mars, woozily filling a space where once lay the entire history of twentieth-century music – all contributing to an extended moment that provokes a much-needed lexical shift in our understanding of how beautiful music can be or just how music can be beautiful.
To write of a new Dead C album in 2016 invites the sensation of a twice- or thrice-told tale; Trouble readily evokes comparisons to the band's early 90s apotheosis on such albums as Trapdoor Fucking Exit, Harsh 70s Reality, Clyma Est Mort and the Siltbreeze magnum opus Operation of the Sonne. But to cycle through such now-canonical titles ultimately serves simply to remind oneself that we've long been under the sway of The Dead C, that they long ago set – and then annihilated – the terms for any understanding of free or abstract guitar-based improvisatory music, have been running razor-edged circles around broad swathes of the contemporary underground and seem to have boundless energy to continue doing so. Trouble, for this listener, evoked nothing so much as a sense of exhilarated gratitude for The Dead C's epic career.
The Dead C are perhaps the only other group to whom the legendary encomium offered by John Peel to The Fall can deservedly be applied: "They are always different; they are always the same." We here at Stranded will exuberantly grasp at more of that difference-in-sameness for as long as Messrs. Morley, Yeats and Russell are generous enough to offer it. The C is Dead, long live The Dead C.