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Tusk - EP

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Album Review

It may be named after the Fleetwood Mac album — at least allegedly — but anyone expecting crystalline late-'70s AOR harmonies and the like will be sorely disappointed. Then again, the strange line drawing of beast and person on the front cover might suggest that much. Again straddling the line between shorter numbers and extended experimentation, and definitely favoring the latter here, Tusk finds the Dead C again exploring new and strange territory even for them. While the general concept of what the band is supposed to be about had long been established, the trio steers even further away from the dark, crumbling guitar sounds of its past at points. "Plane," the opening number, is one of the Dead C's least "typical" tracks ever, opening with a persistent shift back and forth between two loops of what could be anything from broken bells to tinkling, heavily treated guitar. It's an almost Main-like level of minimal ambient creepout, a mood only broken halfway through by a sudden cut to a more familiar lo-fi fuzz of the full band doing a slow jam. Elsewhere, the band builds on the sense of anthemic lift and roar showcased on The White House, to often stunning effect. "Head" is just simply marvelous, slowly but surely building up and up to a grand conclusion; when Morley's vocals suddenly appear, it's the perfect way to send things over the top. The final two numbers are the real winners, though. Both "Imaginary" and the title track are full-on Dead C to the max noise numbers achieving transcendence through volume and feedback. The latter is especially fine, breaking into a electronic beep-touched climax halfway through, then further shifting in a series of rhythmic guitar screams and whines. It's a fitting end to a strong album, showing that the Dead C seem to keep getting better with age.


Formed: 1986 in New Zealand

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Forerunners of post-rock and the modern-day revival of space rock, the Dead C are an improvisational, hugely prolific noise rock trio indebted to Sonic Youth (whose Thurston Moore is an avowed fan), as well as Krautrock and psychedelia. Challenging and mostly instrumental, they have been a definite anomaly on the New Zealand scene, which was still known primarily for the jangly collegiate pop associated with the Flying Nun label when the band first emerged in the late ‘80s. Perhaps in part for that...
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