Deadbeat Something Borrowed, Something Blue

[~scape; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: dub, Berlin techno, trip-hop
Others: HiM, Pan American, Mad Professor

I don't know you, so here's a formality before I begin the review:

A: Relax, Deadbeat is not a Grateful Dead cover band!
B: Sorry, Deadbeat isn't a Dead cover band. Better luck next time, hippie.

That said, I'd like to talk about atmospherics. There's a little catchy turn-o-phrase appeal to a pop hit; with a suitably commanding backing one can turn something like "Ah, Ah, Dude Looks Like a Lady" into instant appeal. Other artists, far, far away from bargain basement Mick Jaggers, are aware of this, but they are pursuing something a little more elusive. Plastikman, Polmo Polpo, and Deadbeat are some of the best in the superhypnotic cascading atmospherics biz right now. I don't expect the radio will have a place for dub music except on the college stations, but it should. This is the kind of music that works you over as though it were a controlled substance. The textures are intricate and soothingly pulsing. Perhaps Plastikman and Polmo Polpo are doing more groundbreaking things with this form, but the deep-sea dive you take throughout Something Borrowed, Something Blue is infinite in its sprawled majesty. The slow burning reggae melodies underneath all the haze are almost on par with Mad Professors' Massive Attack remix album, No Protection. I daresay there are more spikes in the progressions in order to keep things interesting, whereas on No Protection the rhythms are more steady and predictable. The only thing Something Borrowed, Something Blue lacks is No Protection's classic source material.

"Fixed Elections" augments the usual reggae tempo with melody that is somewhat plaintive and a maybe touch melancholic. This song reminds me of the best moments of the first Death in Vegas album. In fact, if you enjoy that recording, you'll probably be into Deadbeat. They don't sound the same, but they seem to approach dub and techno styles with same kind of mindset. They both know the worth of ear-tickling amassed tone clusters with a suitably consistent rhythm. This is another experimental record, which is not obtuse and challenging so much as warm and inviting. These kinds of albums are the ones that you get because they're intriguing as well as stimulating, like Rachel's' Systems/Layers or Califone's Heron King Blues.

I can imagine Deadbeat pumped through subway tunnels and train stations. His music's always full of wispy, advancing ethereal sounds that can't be held down to a cessation of rhythm ("A Joyful Noise [Part II]"). I can just see all those horrific crabs with the skull patterns on their backs in Winged Migration that converge on the poor crippled bird on the beach. You can imagine something more pleasant I suppose. A voice announces at the beginning that when he was a child he loved the sound of crickets. I picture evil crabs. The point is, there is a sinister side to the proceedings in the form of "Quitting Time," a song that possesses a spooky melody on the level of something off of Plastikman's Closer. It alleviates a bit when a reggae countermelody is interlaced. "Portable Memory" closes the album with wistful, seaswept vibe.

What you've got here are ten sublime dub sound sculptures, where each murky dance is faded seamlessly into another like the morphing in Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video. Maybe I should've left that analogy at home. Anyway, if you don't like The Dead, Deadbeat is a near essential for your collection. If you do like The Dead, you'll probably like Something Borrowed, Something Blue because it is near essential record for your collection. If you're indifferent about Grateful Dead, well, here's some music to leap off the fence to. If you'd rather listen to Aerosmith than Deadbeat then pink is your favorite color and you're good. Never mind your preference. I'm not even recommending anymore. Buy this record or die a little more miserable than you already are.

1. A Brief Explanation...
2. Head Over Heels
3. White Out
4. Requiem
5. Steady as a Rock
6. Fixed Elections
7. A Joyful Noise
8. A Joyful Noise
9. Quitting Time
10. Portable Memory (The Final Cut)