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The Dead C - Future Artists

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Artist: The Dead C

Album: Future Artists

Label: Ba Da Bing

Review date: May. 3, 2007

It's been four long years since New Zealand's merchants of grimy noise-rock released The Damned. In that time we've seen bands like Wolf Eyes and Sightings (to name just a couple) rise to, if not fame, certainly some reasonable recognition for plying similar waters. The title of this album's first track may contain some indication that The Dead C know their place: "The AMM of Punk Rock," while self-referentially winking, isn't far off. The Dead C have, for the past 20 years, been toiling on the sidelines showing how to improv your way through territory that isn't quite rock, isn't quite punk, isn't quite noise, isn't quite anything but what it is. Whether it's something you will enjoy is quite another question, of course, and it's certainly unclear how The Dead C feel about your answer.

That first track is 13 minutes of desultory drum hits, mildly buzzing static and squeaky scrapes. That buzzing static may be the one constant throughout the album's five songs, all of which flaunt a distinct layer of audio crud. For 10 minutes, "The AMM of Punk Rock" remains a formless, meandering sound field, with occasional irritating high-pitched bleeps, before it coheres into a vague chug, powered by feedbackish noises. It's followed by "The Magicians," unique here both for its brevity (just under four minutes) and its song-like form, complete with laid-back vocals (it's the only one here that's got 'em). Despite the singing and strumming guitar, the drums remain simple thumps hidden behind a curtain of clanging guitar scree, and the whole contraption rattles along like an old truck, threatening at any moment to fall to pieces.

That feeling of impending collapse lingers over the whole album. The glitchiness of "Macoute" often resembles a motor in need of a tuneup. Its stereo field of whooshes and buzzes is interrupted by stop-start noises, odd breaks in the flow of time. "Eternity" is thick with atmosphere, a dark, dank guitar strum with ringing drums that over time becomes filled with jagged guitar textures until a crude, driving riff begins to poke through the rough, Skullflower'd noise. "Garage" closes things with angular, awkward guitar plucks and strums over muttering static and occasional interjections of electronic bleep. It eventually breaks down into vaporous waves of hiss and crunch, with sporadic guitar strums, until it comes to an end with a lethargically wavering buzz which abruptly cuts off.

Future Artists raises many questions, from its title - are they themselves the artists of the future, or are they waiting for some future in which to become artists? - to its intent. For every moment of intrigue, there are moments of aggravation; for each recognizable string pluck, there are abstract fields of sound to be plumbed. On first listen, the seemingly purposeful and self-conscious lack of focus was more annoying than interesting, but subsequent airings began to reveal rewarding details. It's an album that doesn't allow for early conclusions. Only time will tell whether Future Artists receives further listens or is relegated to the status of not-fully-baked. The jury is still out.

By Mason Jones

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Secret Earth


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