I’ve always appreciated Dan Deacon’s music in the same way I have symphonic music. Both have their places in my personal musical collection, and I can understand what’s good about them, but they’re not usually what I’d put in a mix and force my friends to listen to. Deacon was fun to enjoy live now and then, but there wasn’t anything particularly resounding about his recorded material that made me want to listen again at home.
His latest release, Bromst, has significantly changed my relationship with his music.
As the cover art suggests, Bromst is Deacon’s most exciting and inviting album yet, managing the perfect balance that timeless albums exude: somehow sounding both entirely new, and vaguely familiar, all at once. In part, this is a result of Deacon’s open acceptance of the electronic mysticism of fellow Baltimore scenesters Animal Collective.
Deacon’s compositions are more organic than ever before, their textures evoke landscapes rather than an array of machines, and his voices are not notable for any meaningful logos but for their unexpectedly natural harmonies. While he may never embrace the Collective’s introspective calm, this is certainly the first of Deacon’s albums that might work for the average pop/rock listener, as opposed to the indie-dance crowd or the more contemplative electronic composers. These songs openly embrace outsiders, those who’ve never seen the inside of Floristree or worn skin-tight technicolor leggings and neon green shades while walking through Charles Village. This album isn’t about trends, or parties, or dancing. Like comparing The Velvet Underground to White Light/White Heat, Bromst is a pop record, with all the hooks and major-key melodies that pop records effortlessly toss around, while still containing the musical chops that make it interesting to more than art-school dropouts and those enamored with the live phenomenon of Dan Deacon.
Opener “Build Voice,” which almost seems like it might be a command to his machines, begins on a repeated vocal loop and then introduces an actual repeated refrain with some stunning harmonies, an element sorely missed from the caricatures of voices that occupied much of Deacon’s previous music. Starting from this familiar foothold, the track leads the listener by the hand into the majestic fantasy world of Deacon’s music. Two and a half minutes later the track erupts into the characteristic synths and drumbeats that Deacon is known for, but the tone has a bit more grace and a lot more weight than he has ever tried for in the past. This isn’t just a song that’s fun to dance to or an electronic labyrinth to dissect intellectually; it’s a song that you can sit down and enjoy in its own right as a wonderfully composed pop masterpiece.
In “Snookered” the vocals come back with Deacon singing this, potentially self-referential, verse (surprisingly in an un-modified voice): “Been down this road so many times before//feel like its skin is part of mine.” While the track is stacked with frenetic drum machines and vocal samples, they ride a sublime pulse of rhythm synths that ground the song around cohesive structures rather than allowing the chaos of unrestrained sampling and loops to take over.
Which is not to say the album isn’t as experimental and exhilarating as Deacon’s previous output. A lot of reviews have suggested Deacon is working his classical (well, electro-classical) training into this album. There’s nothing as ponderously intellectual as that on display here; the tracks all aim for the gut and satisfy on a purely irrational, musical level. There’s plenty more depth to this album, but it remains digestible, and never becomes alienating or self-absorbed. Every track on here is designed for pure listening enjoyment.
The bizarro vocal processing on “Wet Wings” is truly otherworldly. The twists and turns of “Slow with Horns/Run for Your Life” and “Surprise Stefani” will satiate any fan of Spiderman of the Rings, but even in its more feverish moments, Bromst maintains its insistence on being stately, dignified, and powerful. The wackiness that previously took front-and-center is bordered by a comforting haze that foils the record’s experimental tendencies with pure pop euphoria.
Bromst occasionally rewards longtime listeners with the robots and chipmunks and overripe fruits that populated his previous work, but it tempers them into a delightfully structured album, bright and friendly to a pop audience. More than that, it proves that the genre we old-school indie-rockers had secretly imagined was a flash-in-the-pan, existing for the moment it was recorded and played, only to just as soon metamorphose into something else, has produced a recording of lasting interest. Bromst isn’t just Dan Deacon’s best album, or one of the landmark albums of electronic music: it’s one of the best albums of the decade.
Label: Carpark Records
Release Date: Mar 24 2009
1. Build Voice
2. Red F
3. Paddling Ghost
5. Of The Mountains
6. Surprise Stefani
7. Wet Wings
8. Woof Woof
9. Slow With Horns / Run For Your Life
11. Get Older
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