A split album usually entails the culmination of a handful of new (or leftover), recordings from two complementary artists, a most convenient means to co-release new music with friends. However, for Brooklyn outfits Dead Tenants and Drome, it means virtually two full-lengths-worth of new music, and their subsequent pouring out of everything they have, into it. Their Ten Dead Ants / Peter Milk split, released just at 2016’s close on Super Secret Records, offers fourteen tracks (six from Dead Tenants, and eight from Drome, respectively), stylistically embodying a crash landing rather than a new beginning at a time of transition. The record, as a whole, is something agitated and unnerving, frantic, and nuts.
Dead Tenants alternate their frenzied tone, almost song by song. One moment, you’re being hurled into the middle of a fiery whirlwind of rhythm; opener “Culture Creeps” and “Right Brigade” possess the sound of an 18-wheeler lit ablaze and sent barreling down an unevenly-paved hillside. The next moment, you’re dealing with the aftermath. “Fear” and “Parallax,” in succession, are the pinpointed picking through the rubble, carefully awkward steps to avoid broken glass and twisted metal. Its composition rips, and then heals, and then rips again. The guitar tones are shrill enough to pluck the goosebumps from the exterior of flesh, instead of their usual appearance from within, and the bass is grumbly and rolling throughout, a bitterly abysmal and lasting stomach gnarl finding no relief in the bizarre see-sawing ebb and flow of the songs.
(And if this is one’s first introduction to either of these artists, whether starting on the Dead Tenants side, or the Drome side, it’s probably more incredible than not to hear two such unique bands compliment each other so perfectly and appropriately. You can listen to the album with the Drome side first, the Dead Tenants side first, or the two woven together like an interlocking set of broken fingers.)
But for linearity’s sake, we’ll say Drome takes over the second half, and the transition isn’t so much seamless as it is a nod to what you’ve just heard, and an elaboration on the jerky, calculated construction of a song. Staccato guitar notes play off incessant percussion that emphasizes clacks and toms, a blindfolded homemade acupuncture remedy in the form of musical instruments. “Rump” and “I Assume You,” are tremendously heavy with some unknowable twang, while others like “Rhubarb” and “Lights Off” find their chaos more rooted in the frantic formation of guitar work. Notes scale up and down in hectic arpeggios that make you question the constancy of life. Nothing stands still. And Joe Maruca’s thickened bellows fill any gap that might form between chords, like rubber cement on a dodgy piece of furniture. It finishes in a most intense fashion, with “Italian II,” a building of feedback that becomes so unbearable it must close the record, and you try to wrap your head around the brevity, and the sheer grandiosity of fourteen songs from two bands. Listen to both sides here:
Check out Drome and Dead Tenants on their string of East Coast dates:
6 Baltimore, MA @ Metro Gallery
7 Knoxville, TN @ The Purple Polilla
8 Little Rock, AK @ Starlight House
10 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
11 Winston-Salem, NC @ Test Pattern
12 Richmond, VA @ Gallery5
13 Philadelphia, PA @ The Buffalo
14 NYC, NY @ The Footlight (with Weeping Icon and Law$uits)