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New Zealand noise rock innovators the Dead C spent decades honing a rich emotional language cloaked in feedback and brittle production values. The trio's history of bending drums and guitars into something mysterious and stormy added up to a dense discography that often saw side-long improvisations calling out from alternating places of defeat and enlightenment. One of the most defining factors of the group's anomalous approach is the consistency they've shown over the decades. Albums have veered closer or farther from structured songs or electronic dabbling, but dropping the needle at almost any point in the group's 30-plus-year catalog would render similar results; a distant melancholy or a solitary sense of searching buried beneath layers of hissing sonic struggle. Rare Ravers represents the group's 15th official album, but it's hard to keep track with the slew of cassette albums, collaborations, archival collections, and other miscellaneous releases that have come and gone. Regardless of technical rank, the three pieces on the album fit in with the overarching color of the band's work and stand as an incremental development to their sound. Albums leading up to Rare Ravers saw the band almost completely refrain from including vocals, and they continue that trend here. Where 2016's Trouble or 2013's Armed Courage explored a wide range of dynamics and textures, the three pieces here hover in a similar territory of slow-moving combustion. The first thing that stands out is how almost the entire mix is buried under a solid sheet of modulated single-note fuzz, hiding various rhythmic patterns and shifting drones of cleaner guitar. As Rare Ravers goes on, the trick becomes grasping at the songs happening beneath the waves of beastly distortion. Instead of the free noise storm systems the group usually works in, 20-minute opening track “Staver” is metered and almost cautious in its arrangement. The fire of the dominating fuzztone begins to smolder around the 16-minute mark, finally revealing just how spacious and foreboding the rest of the song has been beneath the oppressive whirr. At under three minutes, “Waver” washes by, feeling instantaneous in comparison to the other two tracks. Pensive and floating, it’s also glued together by a web of fried feedback, but sounds recorded from a different angle. The drums are more in the forefront, pushing against warring guitar figures. On final meditation “Laver,” the mix shifts between moments of full on noise assault and fragmented focus on cavernous drums and wary ringing minor chords. Sounds drop in and out abruptly but always compete with the laser beam distortion tone that blankets the entire album. Rare Ravers maintains the same disorienting beauty that the Dead C has been working in for their entire career. Another chapter of their singular and often mystifying sound, the band continues to evoke sadness, uncertainty, and awareness of a larger picture using minimal means.
Ba Da Bing
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