Deep Reduction (Get Hip)
Having made History can be either a blessing or a curse. (If you don't believe me, just ask Wayne Kramer.) Since resurfacing nearly a decade ago, following a stint in the U.S. Navy, Deniz Tek has produced a body of work that's been progressively (no pun intended) more experimental, while always hard rockin'. The problem for some folks: it ain't Radio Birdman. (How could it be?)
Just when folks were getting used to the idea of Tek fronting a band of Aussie all-stars (the Steedman/Dickson/Rieth incarnation of the Deniz Tek Group), "Equinox" appeared, featuring a funk-infused Montana rhythm section (including a bassplayer who's vocally a ringer for Les Claypool of Primus) and tunes that took the Beefheartian experimentalismo of "Le Bonne Route" a step Further -- some would say Too Far. (For the record, your reviewer's not one of 'em; I even get off on the late-night electronic sound-painting weirdness of Glass Insects' "Cool and Unusual Punishment," which should have a successor of its own later this year.)
If you're one of those jaded listeners who heard the first Deep Reduction alb and wondered what on Earth the Iceman was doing recording with an okay-but-nothing-spesh garage band like the Stump Wizards (whose Tek-produced "Contains Lead" continues to languish in the can, three years after it was recorded...c'mon, Get Hip), be not afraid. The new Deep Reduction platter features stronger material and a more cohesive band sound than its predecessor...plus Something Extra.
That's right, folks, this album marks the studio reunion of Tek with his Radio Birdman cohort in crime, Rob Younger. The basic tracks were recorded early last year, then last summer, Rob flew all the way from Oz to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, sheaf of lyrics in hand, to record lead vocals. As great as the Birdman oeuvre remains (and we Yanks will get a chance to be reminded of its splendor this summer, when Sub Pop releases "The Essential Radio Birdman"), there's no way you could deny that both men (Deniz primarily with his own eponymous Group, Rob with the New Christs) have progressed light years since the Birdman juggernaut foundered on the rocks of a European tour.
What's remarkable is just how compatible their styles remain. Rob's angry young man has matured into an anguished EXPERIENCED man, with more of a penchant for melody than Birdman's shouted slogans required, and on this album, Deniz seems to have written to his strengths. If I didn't know that the vocals were recorded AFTER the tracks, I'd say it seemed like working with Rob again had energized and inspired Deniz. But that can't be, can it?
Rob doesn't do ALL the singing here; Deniz handles the voxxx on a slightly smoother remake of the '99 single "Black Tulip," while Stump Wizards bassist Jon Sipes does the duty on the closing "Flat Sea." The toons are all new originals, with the exception of the single and a cover of "City Kids" by the Pink Fairies, a Brit hippie band that never impressed me all that much, but whom Dr. Tek swears were better than the Stooges when he caught 'em at the Marquee in London back in '71, on his way to Oz.
For the "Outside" contingent, I'm pleased to report that this record bears some of the most raging rifferama ("Novotel Blues," "Big Accumulator," "Wind Force Eleven") Dr. Tek has penned since that watershed disc. Like the premier Deep Reduction effort, this one's a varied offering with lots of bases covered - jangling 12-string on a coupla toons ("Creosote," which sounds like nothing more than Jim Morrison fronting the Byrds, and the gut-wrenching "Stillborn"), bluesy slide and harp bits ("I'm Gone"), a solid-sent surf instrumental ("Maui Confidential"), and heaps of psychedelic touches ("Question Is," "Ruins") applied to the basic garage-rock framework - but overall, it's a solid, seamless set.
The most accessible effort from the Iceman in a few seasons, and proof positive (as if more were needed after the new songs on "Ritualism") that Tek and Younger haven't yet said all they have to say together. Here's hoping we get to hear more of it (and, uh, maybe see how this material sounds live on the evening stage?). As Rob sings on the opening "Two Words": "Let's rock!" - Ken Shimamoto
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