Those still pining for the avant-wack-pop slant lounge act of defunct Chicago weirdos U.S. Maple need not look further. Enter Dead Rider, formerly known under the less awesomer moniker D Rider. Helmed by ex-U.S. Maple guitarist Todd Rittman, he’s updated his old band’s rhythmic stutters and nervous tics for latter-era Tortoise post-rock percussive clattering (think Beacons of Ancestorship’s drums action), funk jolts, and a breathy, bizarro-sexy dork croon, an apt microcosm of ex-bandmate/singer Al Johnson’s scratchy purr that personified U.S. Maple’s anti-rock.
Not nearly as ominous as the creepy skull on the cover of The Raw Dents, Dead Rider effortlessly melds a smoky and sinister art-pop fusion that, unlike U.S. Maple’s infamous deconstruction of rock music, bleeds an esoteric spookiness and just drips of hooks. But it’s Rittman — who as guitarist in U.S. Maple paid close attention to Johnson’s oddball frontman schtick — and his throaty howl and unsettled whispers and catchy tunes that distinguishes Dead Rider from his former band. 1990s-era John McEntire-influenced Thrill Jockey label post-rockisms dominate The Raw Dents: swirly synths, sax skronk, and funk-heavy drums grooves, which the Beefheart fanatics in U.S. Maple tended to avoid.
However, Dead Rider is not without its disturbing quirks. Lurking behind the guitar shred and funk of “Mothers Meat” are tortured screams. “Feb 5” breaks in on an uncharacteristically mellow folksy acoustic boy-girl interlude before switching into high art-rock gear. “Stop Motion” builds on repetitive guitar squall, while Rittman goes off on a tangent like a madman. “2 Nonfictional Lawyers” has some dude cackling laughter in the background like an effin psycho.
Dead Rider has filled in the void left by U.S. Maple with an equally avant-fucked eye but come out with unexpectedly catchy and killer tunes.Visit: Dead Rider | Tizona
Purchase: Insound | eMusic