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Jessica Hopper wrote about Lake of Dracula a few weeks ago in the print version of the Reader, but I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that the band’s less-than-two-year existence ended nearly a decade ago. The recently released Skeletal Remains (Savage Land) suggests that the band’s music hasn’t aged at all. Sort of a supergroup of the city’s so-called “now wave scene,” the band was fronted by soon-to-be-techno star Marlon Magas, with Weasel Walter of the Flying Luttenbachers on guitar and Heather Melowic of the Scissor Girls on drums. The bulk of the material on the new album comes from a live radio broadcast made in May of 1997 for KFJC in Los Altos, California, recorded about a month before the band threw in the towel. At that point the lineup had expanded to include bassist Jessica Ruffins (ex-Jaks and co-owner of Key Club Recording in Benton Harbor), who joined after Lake of Dracula’s sole studio effort—an eponymous album on Skin Graft—was recorded in the fall of 1996.
While the primal, noisy throb on Skeletal Remains certainly connects the band to New York’s late-70s no-wave movement—a key point of reference for this potent little chapter of Chicago rock history—there was nothing retro or imitative about Lake of Dracula’s music. Magas, a genuine maniac whose early output on the Bulb label helped pave the way for the Ann Arbor noise underground, balanced confrontational zeal with an innate rock sensibility, and arrhythmic whooping with propulsive hectoring, as Walter found a remarkable rainbow of tones within the gray of his brittle, metallic guitar shards. Melowic’s pummeling tom-toms gave the music its primordial thud, a kind of simplistic inducement to orgiastic mayhem. But despite the surface chaos, the music is meticulously put together. The CD also includes some hard-to-find compilation tracks and a single released by Kill Rock Stars.