The best collaborations bring something new out of each participant in the experiment and in the case of Dutch Punks Rats on Rafts, they may have found their soulmates in experimental collective De Kift. Both bands have attacked the nugget of punk from different directions in the past. Rats have often gnawed at the central fury of the form, while injecting a strain of hypnotic tension to their songs. De Kift, on the other hand, have taken the spirit and recklessness of punk and run it through the gaze of post-punk, the kind that had a soft spot for dub and destruction. They share a lot in common with The Ex (who they’ve collaborated with) and Public Image Ltd. So, in bringing together the spark and the abandon, the two groups’ eponymous collaborative debut sets fire to the whole notion of punk and the walls that are constantly built up around it.
The record takes both bands’ catalogs and re-imagines them with the full ensemble, giving Rats’ taught burners a new life as brass-flecked battering rams that float in a strange foam of dub echoes. De Kift turn Rats’ tortured screams into battle cries. Though, that’s not to say that Rats On Rafts don’t have the same altering effect on De Kift’s dense catalog, pulling them further towards the punk center that they’ve previously danced around and dressed up with ornaments. The best of the set finds new ground entirely, as with dark centerpiece of “Dit Schip” that dives straight into “Powder Monkey”. The former smolders and laments with a funereal country-tinged countenance before exploding into the bite of “Powder Monkey’s” blind stabs into the darkness. Its a feint and fight move that sucks the listener in and then knocks ’em totally off balance.
Often collaborations can find songs going to excesses that feel like they may have had heat in the studio, but are lost to those who weren’t present in the moment, but here both bands are pushing each other and its readily apparent on the final recordings. Even for those who haven’t waded into Dutch punk’s waters, the songs have an instant vitality that’s infectious. No need to sing along, just throw yourself into the street and watch the parade tear itself apart, that’s the central feeling of the record. Its a birthday party with exploding cake and grandma getting somber about mortality, right before she drinks you under the table. Its a record that’s odd on paper and fire on the speakers. That’s just my kind of duality there.
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