Like the Fall, this New Zealand trio is always different, always the same. This installment of their oeuvre veers back towards feedback squalls and vocals as opposed to the more abstract/electronic tack they’d been taking in the last few years, but as always it’s a very odd sort of genius. Very odd because you really do need to be in the right mood for it (as with the music of, for example, their secret acolytes the Goslings) but if you are the power of Secret Earth will blow you away. With no information whatsoever on the CD case and layers of static nestled around four lengthy tracks that are too abstract to be songs, too cohesive to be just jams and too elementally powerful to care too much about the niceties, Secret Earth is a surprisingly good place for newcomers to the Dead C’s lengthy, quixotic and often willfully off-putting history.
“Mansions” and “Waves” bookend the disc with slightly quieter songs, but it’s the 25 combined minutes of “Stations” and “Plains” that really grabs hold of you here. Sounding at times like everyone from This Heat to Sonic Youth (and the latter owes the Dead C an awful lot, as they’d be the first to admit), the band manages the tricky feat of seeming both uncontrollable and yet consonant, driven and yet all over the place. It must be the decades of experience, although they never sound anything less than fresh. It’s tempting to call the Dead C pioneers, but that makes it sound as if their vital years are behind them—on this evidence, they’re still as important to pay attention to as they ever were.