I have been consuming a lot of non-straightforward art lately. I am not sure why. I feel that the digressive seems more honest to me. Discernible paths are fictitious. Rooting for a hero has been done too long. Give me a fatally flawed character, one inherently doomed. Place that character in a crushingly mundane constraining situation. Then watch what happens.
I am listening to the Dead C’s “Trouble” and it seems to have all of this in mind. All gnarled and horrible the level of hiss is extraordinary. No hooks melodies riffs there is nothing the Dead C offer in terms of the conventional just atmosphere. Over the course of the gargantuan album there is nothing to root for, no emotionally satisfying crescendo like so much post-rock offers, and no delivery on threat. Most of “Trouble” offers little in a discernible path besides a sinking feeling as the amps buzz their way into the abyss. Compare this to only a few years ago when fans were saying how much more accessible the Dead C were getting (by their warped standards at least). This maelstrom of “Trouble” is incredible. Everything is abandoned. When a discernible beat blasts by it is done out of punishment towards some great evil that drum-kit committed than out of a desire for rhythm.
Those guitars though, seriously can somebody intervene on their behalf. A few times a near riff emerges out of the noise but more often than not it is twisted beyond belief. Oddly there are a few moments that feel like true tragedy, like seeing that unnamed character turning towards the dark side never to find salvation. Hopelessness can emerge from this kind of perspective. An alternate view would be how freeing this dark side can be, of how there are no longer any limits no restraint needed.
Besides all this, the all of this, there is the duration. This is an album that requires a level of dedication most noise groups would never ask. The closest analog to this sort of trial by fire would be early AMM with an edge. Even an attempt at categorizing their sound is for naught. Several descriptors have to be employed like “noise-psychedelic-improv-drone” though none feel apt. This is a band that has shunned convention since their beginning. Instead they are more interested in listening to each other in exploring new lands. With their sense of interplay, it is remarkable how keenly attuned they are to each other’s whims. Yet this is most likely the result of maintaining the same lineup for so long. By avoiding any interruption their pace has not let up, not in terms of releases or style. Having done this for almost three decades they’ve perfected this weird exploration of the grittiest of soundscapes.
Many groups owe the Dead C a degree of gratitude. Whereas so many prickly punk DIY types ‘cleaned up real nice’ the Dead C remained committed to the filth on “Trouble”.