The trio of Robin Alderton, Daniel Merrill and Nathaniel Robin Mann has been charting the outer reaches of free folk for 12 years. Their music has been described as “acutely haunting and occasionally brutal” while remaining elusive and almost impossible to pigeonhole. It is neither improvised nor entirely composed; its exact form never predetermined. Their slowly evolving, multi-layered instrumentals have been embraced by a post-rock audience, while the band’s work remains primarily informed by pre-rock traditions, assimilating broad folk influences from the fife and drums of Scotland to the two-mile swamp hollers of North Carolina.
Their recent work has incorporated fragments of traditional Hebridean melodies into a soundtrack for The Guga Hunters of Ness, a film by Mike Day documenting the harvesting of gannets from the desolate isle of Sula Sgeir. They have thrown themselves into the rough music of the charivari, armed with an array of tuned meat cleavers, with performances echoing Indonesian gamelan, campanology and the vigilante “rough bands” of East Anglia. Most recently, they have sought out the campaign songs of the canal builders, to perform on the Cut – a three week tour taking them from London to Bristol via the industrial arteries of England.
“Luxuriant facial hair aside, Dead Rat Orchestra are far from your typical modern-day folk outfit. To describe them as such would be to undermine their commitment to sonic exploration, with the folk aspect being a mere springboard for their inventive multi-instrumentalist approach.” – The Quietus
“The Dead Rats, barefoot and bearded, have cast aside all cool.” – The Wire