Memory Thirteen


Three years on from the desolate beauty of their debut, Quindi Records presents the second album from Dead Bandit. The ghosts of their past endeavors still haunt their guitars, but on Memory Thirteen the duo's delicately disheveled Southern gothic feels tonally distinct from their prior outing. Dead Bandit is Ellis Swan and James Schimpl -- the former a noted solo singer-songwriter from Chicago with a penchant for eerie, witching hour murder ballads and the latter an accomplished Canadian multi-instrumentalist with a bias towards heartworn, roaming soundscapes. Their instrumental collaboration has an open, lyrical quality which says as much as any spoken line, and on this album they've especially embraced the power of contrast as the listener is guided between scenes, sometimes within the confines of one track. "Peel Me An Orange" is especially instructive in this regard, beginning as a blown-out paean to sonic degradation and the acute sense of hopelessness it projects, only to yield to a lilting tape loop of twanging guitar before entirely widening out in an emphatic burst of post-rock optimism. Post-rock isn't noted for its banal cheeriness as a genre, and Dead Bandit aren't about to lay down feel-good drive-time anthems, but the sense of pulling at extremes of energy and introspection show Swan and Schimpl to be testing the emotional limits of their weatherbeaten sound. The cautiously sentimental mood of "Blowing Kisses" hints at the hard-won light which can be encountered while pointedly driving into darkness. Sometimes noise is a subtle device -- a looming bed of unease under the forthright pluck of Swan's distinct guitar tone or the cracking round the edges of a beaten-up drum machine. On "Memory Thirteen" the distortion on the bass becomes a central figure in its haggard waltz, while "Staircase" and "Perfume" leave the signal wet until the delay feedback becomes the body of the riff. Either way, the sound is never left untouched as Swan and Schimpl grow more comfortable in their exchange, blurring their respective sonic languages as they expand their shared vocabulary to create an album of depth, difference and devoted distortion.