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Dead Rider
Chills On Glass Nick Hutchings , May 15th, 2014 11:08

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.

Although Johnson was being a little harsh on himself, there's no doubt that US Maple were criminally underlooked. Their work was staccato, syncopated, slanting off at all angles, with unusual time signatures that would finish as unexpectedly as they began. It was Trout Mask Replica as played by Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. Rittmann's new band Dead Rider has shown that his inventive guitar work, seconded only by the taut musicianship of The Jesus Lizard's Duane Denison can get into a groove, like Ciccone Youth to US Maple's Sonic Youth.

Chills On Glass is the third album by Dead Rider and their first on Drag City, the label US Maple went on to join. In effect the group take their name from their leader, who loosely translated his name into German – Todd for Dead, Rittmann for Rider – and then back again.

The instrumental sound is fulsome and well produced; 'New Eyes' breaks down like the middle of 'Djed' by Tortoise, and the album is full of self-conscious electronic glitches and digital decay as punctuation. Sometimes its 80s-esque; 'Blank Screen' starts like a game over sting on an old Firefox arcade game, at other moments it has a menace that John Carpenter could have created on his primitive synthesisers circa his Assault On Precinct 13 soundtrack.

It's also creepy and crepuscular on claustrophobic chiller 'The Unnatural Act', which includes discordant piano as played by a skeletal hand not heard since 'Red Right Hand' by the Bad Seeds. On the flipside, a sense of humour is fully engaged in 'Sex Grip Enemy' which breaks down with the emphatic shout of “peanut butter!” Given Iggy Pop and indeed David Yow's propensity for nudity and smearing peanut butter in places where other rock stars can't reach, perhaps this one's for them.

Chills On Glass has been sequenced, so that there are gaps between the songs big enough to drive a huge tour bus through, but each nugget is such an alien blast that you need a break to re-evaluate what just lubed past your lobes. The unwitting star of US Maple and now viscose virtuoso Todd Rittmann has hit on a formula with Dead Rider. Let's hope they get the audience that they deserve, one that US Maple should always have had.