The Dead Rat Orchestra is now an established trio, a staple of the European folk scene with a reputation for introducing experimental sound to a wider audience, however when invited to Margate in 2011 the band were still perfecting their art and the intervention proved pivotal to their future direction.
Originally published on Wix blog 22nd October 2011, 19:16
The Dead Rat Orchestra (DRO) performed two gigs at the Lido bringing remarks of ‘incredible’, ‘raw’, ‘ancient stirrings’ and ‘primitive’. Using a multifaceted arrangement of improvised sounds within a rigid musical structure, the DRO brought a challenging set to an audience unaccustomed to such complex arrangements. The reception in which the band’s music was received shows there is an appetite within Thanet for less mainstream music.
You can watch the guys performing here (this video has no sound)
Words of the Dead Rats:
l-r Nathaniel Mann, Daniel Merrill, Robert Alderton | Photo John McKiernan
‘Simply put I think we’re all interested in [Platfrom-7] projects and ideals, and were happy to get involved and have the opportunity to investigate what was going on in Margate. As a group I think we’ve always been interested in unusual spaces and sometimes challenging situations – our way of operating, musically, leaves space to take into account such external factors.
What marks out a good audience for us is one who are willing to actively listen, and who want to engage with us after the event. In this respect the audience we encountered in Margate was exceptional, and were wholehearted in their engagement with what we had done in the evening performance. Our music is as much about a communication of ideas and references as it is about simple rhythm or melody, and the rewards we get from playing shows are often found in the conversations and ideas sparked in response to the things we have presented.
The nature of the project and wish to explore the space led to a second performance the following afternoon, one that allowed us to re-site and re-make elements of our set from the night before, open and acoustic, playing to the wind and the sea, in contrast to the heaviness of the semi-broken PA and faded nightclub glory of the night before…
Our experience in Margate was one of reflection as much for ourselves as anything, presented with these two totally opposed spaces at the Lido we were able to test and mould our music as appropriate. Both sites were full of resonance; lost memories and faded laughter, into which our music of fragments hoped to suggest new narratives, as your project has almost certainly done too’
Although the Dead Rat Orchestra’s music does have an improvised element, is really what might be called open-form composition; they create a definite structure within which the music is improvised. The overall arch of the performance is very important as each piece is planned out from start to finish.
The set prepared for the Moonbow Lido has a very strong performative edge with the end piece – best described as a visceral and energetic howling – bringing the close of the concert to a unique crescendo.
Magate Gallery [click]
Photographer Bran Jones DRO photos [click]
Since forming in 2002, The Dead Rat Orchestra have played regularly throughout the UK and Internationally, always attempting to react or interact with their surroundings and the people and ideas that they come across – often crafting each performance for the particular space in which they find themselves (from former abattoirs to churches, concert halls to coppice woods).
“Acutely haunting and occasionally brutal”, their music is always focused on the freedom to play. It would not be fair to say that the music is totally improvised, yet neither would it be correct to class it composed. A framework of ideas or sounds is created, but the exact form of a piece is never derived from these.
A focus on performances rather than recording and the constant desire to experiment, expand and play has driven the music on – musical magpies to the last, any means of ringing some resonance out of sounds found either in trembling strings, stretched skins, cracked metal, scratched vinyl, blood, sweat and snow is allowable. Through this no limits approach a music of sometimes quiet beauty, dark brutality and even ecstatic joy has been carved. Often precarious, dancing on the edges of falling apart, their music has shuffled into existence.”
Dead Rat on Lido Sands | Photo Bran Jones
Dead Rat Orchestra are Daniel Merrill, Robin Alderton and Nathaniel Mann. They have played in all duo permutations where required by circumstance, although the missing member’s presence is always felt, be it in recordings or ideas sent across the sea or in the quiet corners of the music they play. However, they feel strongest as a trio – three friends who have shared adventures and look forward to more.
Dead Rat Orchestra have had the pleasure to share bills and stages with some amazing artists, including: ERIC CHENAUX, GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR, SILVER MT ZION, GOODIEPAL, CHRIS CORSANO, HANGED UP, COCOROSIE, JAMES BLACKSHAW, ALASTAIR ROBERTS, C JOYNES, SHARRON KRAUS, DOOMED BIRD OF PROVIDENCE, SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN, FUZZY LIGHTS, THINGUMA*JIGSAW, HAWK & A HACKSAW, THREE BEARDS and many more…www.deadratorchestra.com