Upon emerging from semi-hiatus two years ago, New Zealand grub-note merchants the Dead C made two executive decisions ---' one long overdue and the other cynically pragmatic. In 2006, the trio issued a catalog retrospective ' the term 'greatest hitsâ?� is tough to apply to a band with lower name recognition than Wolf Eyes in the States ' called Vain, Erudite and Stupid: Selected Works 1987-2005. Last year saw the release of Future Artists, a restrained display of grumbling noise presented in five instrumental movements. It doesn't matter whether guitarist-singer Michael Morley, laptopist Bruce Russell and drummer Robbie Yeats were cashing in on the present noise vogue or merely following their tectonic shifting-tone bliss ' Artists was a late-career master stroke.
Their new album, Secret Earth, released this week, marks a return to the trio's early roots. Treble-heavy chordal themes are introduced and slowly, excruciatingly crushed into powder, propelled by tinny drums and cymbals and narrated in labored, unintelligible syntax by Morley. The instrumental glower and gloom is dialed back to almost loungey levels on 'Mansions,â?� and it feels like a head-fake on par with the surprise of abrasive noisers Sightings' menace-shorn 2004 release, Arrived in Gold. On 'Stations,â?� feedback is almost another instrument, gilding a turgid, rattling churn that seems to last forever; distended vocal lines push back against the clattering, blackened current, seeking a foothold but finding none. Yeats' fancy kit work on 'Plainsâ?� provides a mooring force for the prevailing maelstrom of shredded riffage that envelops existentialist sentiments like 'No one knows who you are/Drift and peel away.â?�
Characteristically, of course, this gray buzz-saw whirlpool sounds like it's being played thousands of miles away and beamed to us by satellite telephone; as vague coherence gives way to a pummeling, eternal flail, all sense of place and time is lost. We'd settle for nothing more, or rather, nothing less. This is the desiccated vein the Dead C mine best, and it's a relief to see them back at it again.