A Republic of Sadness
This Gate album is by far the most accessible and possibly the most interesting record that Michael Morley has done thus far. Gate records have a rep for being difficult; even for a dedicated noise-nook like myself, it took great effort to sit through previous entire recordings. When I did I was rewarded with a synapse-rattling brain cleansing like none other. This record takes elements of dance music, and combines it with Michael Morley's wonderful caterwauling to make something so shockingly good that one is dumbfounded. It should not work -- simple dance beats, a South Island drawl, and blown-out drone -- but it does. Could there be a Dead C dance remix album in the works? I hope fucking so.
It should go without saying that Michael Morley is the last person one would expect to be making a “dance” record. To call it a dance record does this exceptional album a disservice. It is far beyond the sum of its parts. The LP starts off with a lush static drone on the first song “Forever”. A simple house beat comes in. The electronic snares whoosh by one’s eardrums. Michael Morley’s unmistakable vocal styling joins the mix. It sounds like a lounge singer on barbiturates -- this is meant as a compliment. The vocals themselves are as impenetrable as ever. It is slightly disconcerting how Morley subverts the dance element signifier to make something wholly other. “All” is a bit more concise. A tiny thudding drumbeat provides forward momentum. A backwards cymbal joins the mix before Micheal's vocals. He mutters and murmurs, and all the while the tinny drum keeps up the beat, bells join the mix, swells of sound gurgle up, and the backwards cymbal repeats. The simple minimalistic elements make up something greater than their whole. It is transcendent simplicity.
“Desert” is about as poppy as it gets for Gate. With a poppy guitar loop, and a driving drum beat, this track has all the signifier of a poppy dance tune -- that is, until the distinct vocals of Mr. Morley come in: “I CAN'T STOP THE WATER RUSHING IN HERE.” This is as strong of a tune as the Dead C classics “Power” or “Bitcher”.
The flip side of the record starts off with a tribal dance groove -- well, as close as you can get to a tribal dance groove on a Gate record. “Wilderness” features a propulsive drum beat, high pitched squeals and a wonderfully over-modulated guitar loop. Morley's vocals on this track are as blown out as it get. It sounds like whales mating; once again this is meant as a compliment. “Freaks” has a bit of bass and crunchy grooves. The groove hits hard on this track; Michael's vocals sound like they are coming up from below the oil slick on the Gulf of Mexico. The beat, with its poppy overtones, are subverted by Michael’s vocals making something that is totally original. The last track is plaintive, with waves of feedback, and distorted drum beats. A collaboration between James from XIU XIU and Mr. Morley would be most fruitful.
I was a bit shocked to see a laptop on stage when Michael Morley played w/ the Dead C in Philly on the last US tour. It seemed counter-intuitive to what the Dead C were all about. After hearing this disc I realize there was no reason to be concerned. The computer is another tool that Mr. Morley can use and abuse. It does not matter what Mr. Morley uses to make his sounds; it only matters how he uses it. This record demonstrates the great skill he has in manipulating any sonic material. (Ba Da Bing Records) (Dan Cohoon)