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18TH DYE (Buy CDs by this artist)
Done (Ger. Cloudland) 1992 (Matador) 1994
Crayon EP (Ger. Cloudland) 1993 (Matador) 1994
Tribute to a Bus (Matador) 1995

Based in Berlin and consisting of a German (singer/guitarist Sebastian Büttrich), a Dane (drummer Piet Bendtsen) and a Danish-German (singer/bassist Heike Rädeker), 18th Dye produces music that is far from the Teutonic sort of non-rock its heritage would imply. Rather, the trio warmly embraces American indie-pop stylings, framing them in the unique European context of their surroundings. Done, co-produced by Chicago industrialist Iain Burgess, casts a hazy, drugged-up spell, rousing itself only to chug through the one-chord wonder of "Whole Wide World," the rocking "Can You Wink?" and the noisy, near-instrumental groove of "Girls Boots." Elsewhere, especially on the marble-mouthed "9 Out of 10," 18th Dye achieves a sort of guitar-drenched stasis, loping through its fuzzed-out pop as if in dire need of caffeine. The effect is, in a word, magical, and the way that 18th Dye embrace some clichés (droney, one-note guitar lines) while redefining others (the dull, heavy-lidded vocal monotone here isn't a symbol of slack, it's simply the right accompaniment to the music) is refreshing.

The six-song Crayon, self-produced with a bare minimum of button-pushing design, is a transitional document; variously rushing and loud ("Aug."), gently motionless ("16 Ink," "Crank") and nicely modulated in the middle (the delirious "Ray," "Nuit N."), the songs mainly uphold the first album's enchanting effect but offer an indication of the band's future direction.

With Steve Albini recording, Tribute to a Bus shifts the dynamic to focus on a noisier, more melodic sound. Seldom lapsing into the somnolent grooves of Done, Tribute to a Bus is a far more complicated album, and even a deceptively lazy song like "Play w/ You" finds itself decompressed into a noised-out rocker. The delicately rhythmic "Poolhouse Blue," the squally, frenetic "Only Burn" and the downhearted "Label" (which, by the way, contains a classic romantic line: "You always sound as if you're crying when you come") seem like straightforward pop songs, countered by structurally deprived numbers like the vast "Go! Song" and the sprawling, Bad Moon Rising-esque "No Time/11 (Spectators)."

18th Dye broke up in 1996.

[Jason Ferguson]