Twenty years is long enough: It's time to acknowledge MICHAEL MORLEY as an indie-rock patriarch. And why not? As the guitarist and vocalist for New Zealand noise-trip trio THE DEAD C and the man behind GATE (ostensibly a solo project, although SONIC YOUTH's LEE RANALDO makes frequent guest appearances), Morley is the rare artist that record-hounds love to unearth: an isotope in the body Pop, radiating an invisible influence. With scores of micro-batch releases and an unmistakably intimate performace idiom, Morley ranks in the company of JANDEK or LOREN CONNORS, but it's geographic isolation rather than social disengagement that has deflected his work from reaching more ears. Still, if you don't recognize his name, you've heard his reverberations, in the ambient post-rock of FLYING SAUCER ATTACK and LABRADFORD, the neo-psychedelia of BARDO POND, and the fidelity-challenged whorl of PAVEMENT and SEBADOH. Recorded in 1993 and out of print since, Gate's "The Dew Line" is the first part of his "rock trilogy" (followed by "The Monolake" in 1996 and "The Wisher Table" in 1999). Rock it does. Typical Gate/Dead C no-fi guitar subduction and Morley's locked-in-the-car-trunk vocals are prominent, but there's also a hefty amount of scraping synthesizer menace and paleozoic riffage. The crust of noise is there, but crack open the sonic geode and you'll discover some nifty songstyling. In someone else's universe, the gem of an opening track, "Millions", gets play on AM radio, while "Have Not" climbs the FM charts. Full of brooding atmospherics, "The Dew Line" is the most -- dare we say it -- accessible of any of Morley's records, and it stands on an equal footing with his Dead C high-water mark, "Harsh 70s Reality," as an anti-rock rock classic.
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