BY JENNIFER KELLY
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. Rider), more melodic and accessible. To describe it with painters, U.S. Maple recalled abstract impressionist Franz Kline, with its big slashing strokes of non-figurative aggression. Dead Rider builds Magrittean non-sequitors into falsetto’d R&B choruses (c’est n’est pas une beat).
Chills on Glass is Rittman’s third album as Dead Rider (and the first on U.S. Maple’s old label Drag City), and it continues to drape the irregular clatter of Rittman’s old band with luxuriant soul melodies. Its opener, “Dead Eyes” begins in a stuttering abrasion of guitar, an electro-shocked syncopation of drums, yet it quickly takes a turn towards skewed tunefulness. Likewise, “Blank Screen” starts in a ragged static of noise and beat, Rittman chanting in stop motion, as arcing synth tones and machine rhythms guillotine measures into bits and bytes. Yet even here, there’s an airy, fully hummable chorus rising out of anarchy. These are songs, not sound collages.
Even at his most confrontational — the mad chant and clangor of “Sex Grip Enemy,” the drum-soloing electro-turbulence of “Four Cocks” — Rittman wrestles with recognizable forms, and in a couple of songs, the Sabbath-riffed “Of One Thousand,” the slinkily syncopated “Weaves,” the bent-Spoon piano riffed “Weird Summer”, he is edging close to legible rock and roll.
Chills on Glass may be rock viewed sideways, through a cracked mirror, after 48 hours without sleep, but it is till the recognizable thing. As such, it fits uncomfortably into the places you’ve made for rock, jarring you even as it feeds you.
DOWNLOAD: “Weaves,” “Blank Screen”