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12 March 2012

The Dead C - 'The Operation of the Sonne' (Siltbreeze)

An old friend of mine (who I have mentioned before, such is his influence on my own musical development - and he reads this blog. Hi!) once told me about a crazy drunken stoned fling he had. The woman in question actually had a Dead C tattoo, a story that I found incredible on many levels, but especially because it was not a tattoo of the Dead C logo, but of the band itself. On her chest, if I remember his tale correctly, she had the comic-book drawing of messrs. Morley, Russell and Yeats rocking out - the same drawing which adorns the label of side 2 on The Operation of the Sonne. If you're still out there, mystery woman, come to me. In the meantime, there's a tear in my eye for this, the last vinyl foray for this band that we'll cover. Operation is a departure, though that's an easy assessment to make for a record built around only three songs, and only one of them resembling a "regular" Dead C song (a la 'Power', 'World', etc). What really makes this a departure is the experimental nature of the jams. There's electronic elements present, spazzing everywhere on side 1 and dominating 'Mordant Heaven' (which may bear some resemblance to Trapdoor's 'Heaven'). Like a car alarm soaked in despair, 'Mordant Heaven' is about the battle between the guitar riff and the repetitive synth loop, or ring modulator, or whatever it is. But 'Mordant' is actually the most conventional Dead C track here. The opener, 'The Marriage of Reason and Squalor', is an epic, smashing beast where Bruce Russell recites some hermetic text, the biggest nod to his occultist tendencies we've yet encountered. It's deep, not necessarily in lyrical content but in thick slabs of low-mid greasepaint. It might be the most memorable track here, but it ain't the best - that award goes to 'Air', which is the entirety of side two. 'Air' is aptly named, and almost non-existent at points. The first 75% of this (as well as much of the record, to be honest) is Yeatsless, unless he is playing guitar or radio static or something. Throughout, guitars try to start a riff, actually proceeding from the more angular, disjointed side heard on the last track of Clyma. But do they get anywhere? It's hard to say - every bit of direction seems to change. At times they sound combative, at other times, unaware. There's a slow procession towards silence, and the middle section of 'Air' is a long, slow breath. This could have got them signed to Kranky, in 1994, if they cared. Then, the volume level jumps, like a recording error more than anything, and we get the group jam you've all been waiting for - except we really don't, because it resists every urge to thrash about and make a ruckus. It's not so much a kinder, gentler Dead C as it is a Dead C more interested in free currents. But there's something still so anti- about it all for me; you fill in your own blanks. Things change after this - The White House, Repent and Tusk close out their Siltbreeze years and also are CD-only I believe - and though those records have many, many, merits, it's really the beginning of Phase II.

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