by Brian Manley
Trying to label NYC’s The Dreebs is like pole vaulting a blueberry on fire – you can do it, sure, but it doesn’t really make any sense in the doing. The ex-pats from NYC ensemble PC Worship have delivered Forest of a Crew, their fifth release, and the burn of their sound is only etching deeper as this trio explores further.
I first experienced The Dreebs at their performance in a warehouse at the Louisville Cropped Out festival in 2011. A few months later, I bought Bait an Orchard, a beautifully complex pierce into disturbing soundscapes that twisted drone and noisy walls into a molded point-device of jangled guitars, captivating percussion and Adam Markiewicz’s mysterious violin and vocals. The band’s music has never been predictable, and as they progressed into other recordings, the probe into these ideas plunged deeper. The noisiness became more sporadic and frayed taking second seat to plain experimental page-turners, splaying open into broadly Gothic realms on 2013’s Humiliation.
Forest of a Crew builds and digs and encamps and ventures away with all of these ideas and explorations. The presence of unusual percussion, helmed by Shannon Sigley, has always crowned and surrounded The Dreebs’ music, so much so it seems to me to be a signature of their feel. Forest is saturated in percussive experimentations. Besides clanks and rhythms straying from the traditional trap-set, we now have what sounds like chains scraping link by link over pipe; bent pianos; looped chimes; xylophones and glockenspiels ripped from another dimension. Guitars that sound like bells seem to be mixed with actual bells. Each three or four minute piece is surrounded by interludes and bridges of moods and ideas that swirl and paint the landscape, creating complete atmosphere.
I hate saying a band has “matured” into something, and I don’t believe The Dreebs have suddenly grown up, but rather they have achieved a monument that they’ve been scaling for a few years now. The record has the feel of a concept album. The interludes are titled letters that eventually spell “I AM CREW” and swell with an organic overlaying of repetitive sound environments. The songs that are bridged display an eeriness to them that prances in an almost seething slow no wave. “My Killer” is an odd-timed staccato that disjoints with both the rhythm, melody and vocal lines. Percussion is the framework for many of these presentations, and Sigley’s exploration into a polyrhythmic dreamland of auras. “QAC” is wonderfully anxious stamp and chant; “The Paint” follows through as violin, voice, bells, and more twirl and coil around a mix of sadness and stiff fidgeting.
Pieces like the closer “Love Your Body” exemplify this brainstorm in texture, as Markiewicz barks menacingly over Jordan Berstein’s prepared guitar which bleeds into the percussion to a point that sometimes the instrumentation is impossible to separate, coalescing into the disturbing atmospheric forest The Dreebs have convinced the listener to trust. It’s a dark but enchanting beat to follow.