Does Pittsburgh have a love affair with math-rock? Well, after almost two decades of Don Caballero albums and a host of other locals copping elements of their style, it's still tough to get more than 200 people to a CD release every couple of years, while youngsters flock in droves to the emo and punk-pop from MySpace.
If there's anyone realistic about how obscure forward-thinking rock remains in its own hotbed, it's the four members of Drugdealer. Their scene pedigree shows their evolution: Singer Dan Newman (who also plays a Wurlitzer organ) fronted the dreamy Marichal, bassist Justin Pelissaro spent the '90s in hardcore band Davenport, guitarist Paul Nowoczynski was in tech-grinders Creation Is Crucifixion, and drummer Owl Barns stretches all the way back to the Bad Brains/Cro-Mags-influenced Slowpoke, who opened for Anti-Flag way back in its early days.
But Drugdealer has proven to be a different animal, with a sound that's morphed since its first show in January 2008.
"At first, we were doing less metallic, extended compositions," says Barns. "But when Paul joined, we said let's try to do mature stuff that sounds energetic, youthful and bombastic. So we concentrated on making more concise, dense jams."
The result is the Tits EP, which the band debuts this Sat., March 14, at Gooski's. It's a tiny masterpiece of art-damaged skree, reminiscent of Hella, Naked City and Ruins (or for younger bucks, An Albatross or Daughters) and inundated with odd time signatures and lots of twists and turns. Dan Newman's spastic yelping is reminiscent of David Yow in double time. The real surprise comes at the EP's end: a combined remix of the other three tracks and two rejected ones, a nightmarish, John Oswald-esque musique concrete opus assembled by local composer whiz Dave Bernabo. Barns actually believes the piece could be played live, using a MPC sample-triggering machine.
"We're trying to use some experimental elements but keep it in a context that's still banging and has some groove to it," says Barns. "Our first couple shows, we were really noisy and a bit too loud, but we're starting to get better in controlling that."
But he isn't worried about the likelihood that large segments of the local scene probably won't be able to understand this kind of music. He'll send the EP (with the artwork he drew of a baby breastfeeding on a spider) to all the relevant labels and see what shakes out, and do some light touring in the region to see if Gen-Y groks it.
"We need to get in more people's ears, and the live odyssey is just beginning."
Drugdealer EP Release with Mrs. Paintbrush (Jackson of Grand Buffet) and Microwaves. 10 p.m. Sat., March 14. Gooski's, 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill. $5. 412-681-1658