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Gate - The Dew Line

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Artist: Gate

Album: The Dew Line

Label: MIE Music

Review date: Oct. 5, 2012

The sublime New Zealand landscape has bustled with myriad music niches, but known primarily for two groundbreaking, disparate factions, both uncorked by the legendary Flying Nun Records. The influential Kiwi imprint was responsible for releasing waves of noisy poptones that stretched its infectiously pop-punk hand as far as North Carolina when, in the earliest days of Merge Records, Superchunk was covering Verlaines tunes and putting out records by The 3Ds. Meanwhile, New Zealand icons The Clean have settled comfortably into the Merge stable.

Then there is the antithesis of bands like The Clean’s sweet, but edgy ear-candy and the weirdo avant-pop of Tall Dwarfs’ Chris Knox: the dissonant shards and experimentalist bludgeon of Noise music godfathers The Dead C. Devised in 1987 by Xpressway label head Bruce Russell, avant guru Michael Morley and ex-Verlaines drummer Robbie Yeats, The Dead C helped set the precedent for the DIY aesthetic and portended the decidedly anti-’mersh noise-rock model with the lowest of lo-fi recordings and limited edition cassette releases.

Whilst The Dead C busied itself with shit tons of activity throughout the late 1980s and well into the ’90s, guitarist Michael Morley was able to moonlight as Gate, his apocalyptic drone-song brainchild. He’s released a glorious barrage of Gate records since the early 90’s on his own Precious Metal label and now-defunct visionary label Table of the Elements.

The original version of Gate’s 1994 LP The Dew Line on TotE consisted of seven skronk-ridden damagers. This new reissue on U.K.-based independent MIE Music expands further into epic sprawl with re-sequenced song order, four additional cuts and glorious gate-fold cover art and two-LP vinyl action.

Upon looking back, The Dew Line would have fit snugly into the Drag City days of yore alongside the tape-hiss jam antics of early Silver Jews, Pavement’s Mark E. Smithisms and the drug-tracked blues fuckery of Royal Trux. Like the original pressing, the scuzz-dripping twang-job “Millions” opens the record in shambolic 4-track mode, a la Sebadoh, while the sinister drone groove of 11-minute marathon “Needed all the Words” shows just how Dead C enthusiasts Yo La Tengo concocted its organ-driven pulsations. Morley’s corrosive guitar riffs meander and crack while choppy wafts of distortion drop in and out of the haze on stoner monoliths “Have Not” and “Auto Level.”

The striking part of listening to The Dew Line now is how 1994 it sounds. Morley has been unjustly denied credit (at least in America) for his role in shaping the lo-fi movement of the early ’90s. Let’s hope this reissue goes a way toward righting that wrong.

By Brad Cohan

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