The Dead C Continue Sprawling Sonic Journey on 'Patience'

The Dead C

Patience (Ba Da Bing!)

Wherever the current cadre of experimental rock free-formers roam, no matter how far-flung the sonic frontier, they must truly tire of discovering graffiti scrawls reading, "The Dead C was here." Since 1986, the New Zealand trio has dedicated itself to improvised-music-as-rock/rock-as-improvised-music, uncovering untold vistas of gnarly racket and any number of strangely beguiling song forms—talk about Le Noise. Over the course of their haphazard career, Bruce Russell, Michael Morley, and Robbie Yeats have wandered so far afield, with such minimal attention paid to who, if anyone, was following, that they left behind many of the casual fans who signed on during the trio's brief synchronicity with 4-track lo-fi indie rock in the early '90s. Aptly named new album Patience finds them circling back around to something like erudite stoner jams, and it's high time for the daytrippers to get back on board.

Opener "Empire" finds them assembling once again in rock-band-like formation, with Russell and Morley creating layers of lonely, echoing riffs and ear-scouring courses of feedback, all banged into rough shape by Yeats' forlorn backbeat. It's almost possible to imagine a wind machine blowing back their hair as they lurch forward through what counts for them as a lighter-waving rock-dude epic—and epic it is, its 16-minute length beside the point. Yeats serves a similar role throughout, shaping Russell and Morley's growling, gyring skree into something like a rave-up for parts of "Shaft" and corralling unruly tremolo bleats with his cymbals on "Federation." He is all but absent for the first half of "South," leaving Russell and Morley to duet in hushed tones over amp hum and the occasional short-hair-raising outburst, before re-emerging to underpin a rising tide of evocative chords and scouring squeal. It's sort of like the Dead C equivalent of a power ballad, which means it sounds like a serenade for the roaches and minor fur-bearers that will survive us at the end of the world—along with the Dead C, of course, who will still be making an album every couple of years that you really should hear. Like this one.