Chicago’s Dead Rider Return with The Raw Dents
By Kyle Melton
In a musical climate where virtually anything goes, it’s easy for recombinations of musical elements to fail to achieve anything beyond pastiche. In the hands of skilled craftspeople, however, there is a frontier of musical exploration standing open for innovation. For Chicago’s Dead Rider, the recombination of musical building blocks and willingness to reconstruct known idioms into a futuristic, sonic concoction places them near the vanguard of modern rock music.
Formed by Todd Rittmann (vocals, guitar, harmonica, drums) following his tenure in the enigmatic, Chicago art/noise, rock outfit U.S. Maple, the group adopted the new moniker of D. Rider, which included Andrea Faught (synth, vocals, horns) and Noah Tabakin (saxophone, vocals, synth). Dead Rider took a significantly different approach to deconstructionism in pop music with this new endeavor. Following the release of their 2009 debut album Mother of Curses, the band added drummer Theo Katsaounis and set out in support of the new album.
“What we are doing with Dead Rider is a much leaner and groove-based music,” explained Rittmann. “Musically speaking, the songs deal much more with space and hard beats where Maple had more free and dense passages, flourishes and, of course, guitars. The more open sound of Dead Rider is not some conscious decision to make a left turn, but more like this band following its own artistic impulses. So far the response from Maple fans has been great, though.”
As the band set to work on their follow-up release, they added drummer and native Daytonian Matt Espy and elongated their name to its current state: Dead Rider.
“The name detruncation commemorates the lineup change to include a drummer and make it a four-piece and that unit being more of an artistic collaborative than the first record,” Rittmann said. “Mother of Curses was 90 percent me writing, and Andrea and Noah playing their parts.”
With the new lineup solidified, the band set to work writing and recording in Rittmann’s Chicago apartment. Over the course of about a year, the group evolved the compositions organically and quickly documented the results as they were laid out. The results of this process can be heard on Dead Rider’s new album, The Raw Dents, due out May 3 on the Tizona imprint.
“Although I’m very happy with Mother of Curses, I think The Raw Dents blows it away and is probably the best thing I’ve ever done,” admitted Rittmann. “I don’t think it is a departure from the first record, but a giant leap forward.”
Throughout The Raw Dents, Dead Rider employs disorienting stabs caterwauling from synths, guitar and occasionally saxophone, driving angular, rhythmic pulsations and Rittman’s eerily dynamic vocal delivery to deliciously unsettling effect. The synthesis of these core elements is delivered with maximum effect on tracks “L. Rider,” “Just a Little Something” and “Stop Motion.” While Rittmann’s work over the past 20 years serves as some of the most significant in defining the sound of Chicago’s post-rock idiom, he seems more than willing to distance himself from any such affiliations.
“I’ve always felt like such an outsider to any of the musical ‘scenes’ that might be associated with Chicago,” Rittmann said. “Honestly, if there’s been any thought at all given to how my work fits in with the more notable music from here in the 90s and 2000s, it is/was ‘Run the fuck away!’ If I personally owe anything at all to Chicago’s rich musical history, it is to the 50s era of Chess records. I always come back to incorporating/sabotaging blues idioms in my music.”
As Dead Rider moves forward with The Raw Dents, their idiosyncratic blend of music’s most primal elements dares listeners to look beyond the known boundaries of sonic exploration and seek to discover something just beyond the horizon.
Dead Rider performs Saturday, May 7 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Also on the bill are Toads & Mice and Microwaves [Pittsburgh]. Doors at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for all ages. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/dridermusic.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@daytoncitypaper.com and read his blog at thebuddhaden.net.