Canadian artist Deadbeat (real name Scott Monteith) has always been ambitious. Making his name with dub-doused techno, the Berlin-based producer has experimented with field recording, acoustic instruments, and manipulation of musical space over the course of his many albums and singles for respected labels such as Wagon Repair, ˜scape, and Cynosure. Wax Poetic For This Our Great Resolve, though, is something new: a (mostly) electronic record with a political message at its heart.
With their general absence of lyrics, electronic or dance tracks are often considered apolitical or lacking in message, their core role to elicit a physical response. Still, by its nature, underground music is countercultural, existing outside the mainstream and often in opposition to its values. There’s actually a long history of politics in electronic music, from Autechre’s anti-Criminal Justice Act track “Flutter” to DJ Sprinkles (Terre Thaemlitz) railing against the commodification of dance culture and reasserting its black and gay roots. Deadbeat’s new record follows in this tradition and carries a message of hope. It’s a collective refusal to be phased by the frightening forces in control of some of the most powerful countries in the world, and a counter to the gloomy predictions of a bad-news obsessed media.
Recorded at his Berlin Chez Cherie studio, Wax Poetic For This Our Great Resolve invites many of Monteith’s musician friends to contribute vocals, which they do in a variety of ways, from spoken-word segments to rhythmic hits and poetry. Each song is named after the person or people who feature, and the list of respected artists contributing is long, from Thomas Fehlmann and Gudrun Gut to T. Raumschmiere and Mike Shannon. Musically, it’s among Deadbeat’s most diverse records, incorporating live instruments and new influences within a dubby technosphere. “Hebatallah and Bashar” is an instant standout, with its undulating, Afrobeat-style guitar, haunting synth pads, flurry of conga drums, and repeated vocal phrases looping through filter effects. It’s mesmerizing. “Thomas” finds a sinuous dub bassline curling around acidic bleeps and a stately 4/4 kick, while lots of backward warping effects, small melodies and, of course, Thomas Fehlmann’s vocals in German, create an intoxicating tonic.
Monteith’s previous record, Walls and Dimensions, mostly focused on dancefloor dub techno (and house). In comparison, his latest is far more intricate and geared towards closer listening. “Gudrun” builds with swirling moods and sparse drums, before introducing a spine-tingling chord and sub-low acid bassline, and occasional interjections from Gudrun Gut. The opener, “Martin,” is a hypnotic ambient piece that shimmers with phaser effects; “Steve and Fatima" has a doleful organ melody, with the guest vocalist suggesting that: “Either politics throws open the doors, or it won’t be long before they’re kicked in by angry citizens as they smash every last stick of furniture and walk out with the chandelier of power.” These messages are delivered in six different languages, so it’s not always apparent what each vocal guest is saying; but this broad spread of voices adds to the universal nature of the message, as a greater variety of listeners will hear words they can potentially identify with. “Me and Marco” bumps to an almost dancehall rhythm, the most stripped back cut on the album, with half-sung vocals and ghostly drifts of melodica appearing from the shadows. On the closing track, “Mike and Judy,” over another beatless mist of distant electronics, a poem tells us: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come.”
A collective effort, Wax Poetic For This Our Great Resolve is a small but significant example of the power of bringing people together, united by a message of positivity. Thanks to its blend of machine and voice, acoustic sounds, and studio trickery, it’s suffused with an organic warmth too often absent in the dub techno genre. As an album, it ranks among Deadbeat’s finest.
02. Steve And Fatima
04. Argenis And Cristobal
05. Chato And Avril
06. Hebatallah And Bashar
08. Me And Marco
09. Momo And Yuzo
11. Mike And Judy
Wax Poetic For This Our Great Resolve LP will land on April 27 via BLKRTZ, with "Momo And Yuzo" streaming exclusively in full below.