Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Experimental Rock, Noise Pop, Noise-Rock
There’s something cracked in Todd Rittmann, former guitarist of twinkly noisepunks U.S. Maple, and it’s not immediately obvious what. On Chills in Glass it’s something abstract, darting between grunts and rumbles. It trickles through the music, a kind of Brainiac shock’n’roll, as joyous as it is jarring.
Dead Rider (or D. Rider as they were once known) can usually be relied upon to mix things up and mess things around, usually to great effect. Chills On Glass is their third album, and it sees them moving off into new directions, messing with genre conventions and doing pretty much whatever they please. Their combination of styles is at times a frantic and baffling mix, yet it almost always hits the spot.
Perhaps the most powerful and elusive of abilities available to musicians today (and perhaps since popular music began) is the slippery task of walking the line between the abstract, untested and untried and keeping things accessible. Dead Rider are a band who walk the proverbial tightrope and whose Chills On Glass offers a sound which manages to stretch the rubber band without losing the vision to make music that appeals to many. The album – written, recorded and self-produced by the outfit (Todd Rittmann, Matthew Espy, Andrea Faught and Thymme Jones) – brings ballsy, guitar led rock, danceability, sonic experimentations and a storm of shredding electronics.
As evidenced by their two previous Tizona offerings, 2011's The Raw Dents and 2013's Mother of Curses, Dead Rider is a virtually non-classifiable musical entity. Founded by former U.S. Maple guitarist Todd Rittman, this quartet -- which also includes saxophonist Noah Tabakin, keyboardist/trumpeter Andrea Faught, and drummer Matt Espy -- makes music from the rhythm section out.
Todd Rittmann, the driving force behind Dead Rider first came to my attention with the vastly underrated band US Maple, and their difficult yet rewarding first album Long Hair In 3 Stages produced by Jim O'Rourke. Like a lot of records on Chicago label SKiN GRAFT, it featured some excellent creative packaging, in this case an aluminium sleeve with each one individually bent and hole punched. At the time I interviewed vocalist Al Johnson for my fanzine, who noted that the group inhaled so much aluminium dust that they no longer knew what was good.
Dead Rider — Chills on Glass (Drag City)Near the end of the track, Dead Rider’s “Blank Screen” starts kind of… sliding away from the listener. The bulk of the song is, if not terribly conventional, at least using some kind of verse/chorus/verse grammar amid all the thick, somehow greasy Moog tones, sharply off-the-beat drumming, and chanted/howled vocals. And then the singing stops and a pretty brutal Moog riff takes over… and the track starts shuddering apart, stuttering while extra layers of guitar start playing over each other and the drummer keeps playing between the other instruments.It’s a thrilling climax; the first couple of times maybe because it’s hard to make sense of what’s going on.
Dead Rider comes out of the brutal abstractions of U.S. Maple, but it doesn’t live there. Its auteur, Todd Rittman, was, along with Mark Shippy, the instigator of the band’s mathematically precise guitar devastations, which teetered between chaos and alternate-universe exactitude. Dead Rider has been, from the beginning (when it was D.
Armed with a bigger budget, more noise-making gear and an index of weirdo possibilities, Chills On Glass could be best described as “some next-level shit” perpetrated by former U.S. Maple guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Todd Rittmann and his coterie of winking musical savants. While previous Dead Rider records have focused on Rittmann’s fingers-caught-in-a-sewing-machine guitar style on top of fragmented grooves, Chills is heavily peppered with synthesizers and other electronic distensions that fill out the band’s sound.