Patience is always a virtue when listening to the Dead C. If one takes the time, and listens closely, one begins to find order in the chaos. While the vocals are absent from this record, it is still song oriented, if more abstractly so. It does not totally forgo structure or form like the turn of the century Dead C was exploring. It still has hums and hisses, but they seem to have more intent and not just chance behind them. There is space on this record, along with the rock-ist rawk.
“Empire,” the first jam, is sprawling and barely controlled, like the parking lot of an abandoned mid-west box store or the last stages of the British or Roman Empire. “Empire” is about as straight ahead rock as the Dead C get. The chugging guitars would not be misplaced in a Crazy Horse end-of-the-song train wreck. Robert Yeats’ drumming is solid, structured and tight. The driving guitar sits well with the atonal squawk. Like all empires, it seems to chug along sustainably, until you notice bits of thread beginning to fall off in strands from the composition, like retirement funds in the dying days of American capitalist empire in the 21st century. By the time you notice the shift to atonality, the form is already slowly collapsing, sliding slowly into the sea like the poorly built McMansion beach house in an earthquake zone.
“Federation” comes in with cymbal clangs and reverberated-out space drone. It is over as soon as it finds its own expanse. “Shaft” features some cracked broken beats that could have easily come from the latest dance hit Gate record. The drum loop on this track, though, is thrashy and blown out, while the beats on the Gate record were warm, round and cushy. The drum loop dies out and form terminates.
“South” inhabits a very Bardo Pond spiritual head space. The amp hum sounds of the early 1990s lo-fi, but I think it is deliberate rather than accidental. Space expands in this song, much like the universe is expanding. A simple rattling sub-surface loop provides the barest of tethers to solids before total evaporation. Something squeals, a mistake? It is stopped abruptly. The other guitar slowly strums, while the second guitar goes into an epileptic fit before coming to a very quick haunting halt.
(Ba Da Bing Records) (Dan Cohoon)