Mavis's Dream Three




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Mavis likes noise. Not the sound of a jack hammer first thing in the morning, of course, but noise as in it’s almost music, well, sort of, at least, I think so, they do have instruments, that is a guitar in his hand, right, oh my God what’s that terrible racket, hey that’s great. James Wykeham-Martin likes that sort of stuff too (he’s the guitarist in Vacuity Basement—see page 15 for more) so he wrote us this great article on The Dead C, and nicked a discography too (with full permission, right James? :-) )

As we anxiously await the arrival of the new Dead C release, which is allegedly being mixed as we speak, it seems appropriate to do a quick retrospective exposé of this small group of New Zealand “folk-rock”(?) Guerrillas. Hailing from Port Chalmers on New Zealand’s South Island some time around 1987 and comprising the talents of Bruce Russell, Michael Morley and Robbie Yeats, their blend, or maybe conflict, of improvisation and song caused widespread confusion amongst the local music scene as they bludgeoned punk-rock to death. But now thirteen years later standing on their mountainous back-catalogue (which for once surly does add up to a hill-of-beans) they remain largely unknown due to their understandable lack of touring and radio-unfriendly blend of drones. With the motto “why use two chords when one will do” firmly entrenched in their collective free noise style of play the Dead C have seemingly ostracised themselves from the record buying public. To the loss of the public, it must be said.

Looking over their Discography there seems two obvious places to start, Proform Max Harris (the first release) or in true Dead C fashion Harsh 70s Reality released around 1991. It opens with a 22-minute ode to Douglas Lillburne’s Poem in Time of War (1967) and starts the anti-war sentiment which runs through the entire album, as well as continuing the Dead C anti-American government theme which seems present more often than not in Dead C “songs”. Yet aside from the politics Driver UFO stands out as a clear mark of what was to come, the final rejection of song forms altogether and the embrace of freeform noise once and for all! The remainder of Harsh 70s Reality is a unique balance between improvisation and song which completely compliments the opening madness rather than a bunch-of-songs-tagged-on-to-fill-up-space kind of deal.

Moving on or as the case is back from there we find another gem in the Dead C crown, this time the Trapdoor Fucking Exit CD reissued in 1993. Compared to Harsh 70s Reality this is positively pop (or at least punk) albeit injected with the murky tones of our favourite shadowy New Zealanders. The album contains Dead C classics such as the down right stoner-rock ambience of Helen Said This. Taken along with Harsh 70s Reality, this album marks a positive turning point in the Dead C career curve. Trapdoor Fucking Exit reads like the final exorcism of traditional song forms ready for the deconstruction which would follow.

What was to follow included Operation of the Sonne, Repent and Tusk, three albums which continue to flaunt whatever it is they've got. Operation of The Sonne (which contains only three pieces) kicks off with an ambient lingering jam which is heartily sustained for the first side of the LP, and indeed much of the second, and is reminiscent of songs such as Power with much less of Morley’s vocal stylings until mid-way through Air (which takes up the rest of side two). These three masters of sludge dive into to a Yeats-led frenzy of rocking noise. The album may be no shorter than most releases but the time flies by giving the impression of something short and very very sweet. The LP does have lyrics but true to form they’re taken from an alchemical text from Corpus Hermeticum. If nothing else Repent’s packaging is more than indicative of the Dead C sound, leftover packaging with murky photocopied cover pasted on leftover boxes.

Anyway Repent is live and is probably the closest any of us will come to experience them in this state. It starts off as it intends to go on— humming buzzing squealing seething drones compound into something organic and beautiful, building quite linearly to end in a very similar yet very different place from where it began. Finally then to the last new mass- released material that seems like Repent in reverse starting with the hilarious Plane which sounds like a ensemble of deviant alarm bells before an awkward Bob Dylan sounding riff limps in seven minutes or so after it all began. Its not long, though, before the defunct monks of lo-fi free noise and back with the same familiarity as a Kiss comeback tour.

Dead C releases can be obtained with relative ease from Positively 4th St. but for more info, mp3s etc point your browser to
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