Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Dan Deacon - America

 

Dan Deacon as an electronic musician always manages to bring the fun and colorful side of his music to the forefront. It may be a direct objective, it may simply be an enjoyable side-effect of the American's method of production. But the result is always worthy of mention. 2009's 'Bromst' saw Deacon push his experimentally-edged methodology through channels of party-pop synths and pulsated percussion, that it was as much an experience to behold as it was an album to adhere to. It's surprising then to see such praise spoken of by both listeners and critics alike, of one man, and one man who specializes in such energetic deliverances - as much as his dreamy layering of electronics and instruments alike - out of the simple and honest fact that this is the same sound, many could, and probably would, turn away from. This however, is not the case and three years of wait have ended - the eager public now having 'America', Deacon's fifth outing. And here, the sense that this is indeed a more geographic venture, comes out in vast bursts of electronics and vocal play-around.

'Guilford Avenue Bridge' breaks the homeland doors down with a bullish onslaught of thunderous synthesizers and charged percussion work. Caught in a flux of manic desperation yet still feeling all too controlled and orderly, the track has this abrupt boiling-over effect in its sound, as if ready - and willing even - to crumble before our very eyes. But the tense uncertainty is soon replaced by an air of ascending spaciousness and this eery electronic ambience that flows through the overall music, and adds a somewhat misty backdrop to Deacon's empowering authority over his instrumentation. 'True Thrush' by contrast, feels compact and direct in its glitchy paddings of strummed instruments, flat-palmed percussion and frosty coating of electronics. His vocal work increases this cooling sensation against a backdrop of altered vocals and whimsical flutters of harmonics. And all the while, the momentum is kept, maintained and then built on as Deacon escalates the track into runaway proportions.

While this is certainly not an album for the faint-hearted - or those looking at this guy from the outside, expecting little more than solo experimentation and childish turning of knobs - that doesn't mean Deacon has a way of grabbing his listener's attention, as is the case with the three-minute outburst that is 'Lots', influences from punk and grunge's rock aesthetic of energy-driven full-burst deliverance, and passing that from the simple synthesizer, out onto the planes of a multi-tonal multicoloured palette of noise and rhythm.

Away from the rock influence though, listeners may not quite find as many direct references to the America of the present, or even the same country from which we know and love/hate. Rather, this album feels more like a retelling of the country's diverse and enduring never-say-die attitude through a signature onslaught as much as it is a composite of synthesized hooks and rattling instrumentation. And as you progress through this record, there's this underlying current of confidence and lack of fear in not just the sounds, but in Deacon's ability as a song-witer and production in equal measure. The confidence here is surprisingly high, and even when the music comes to an abrupt halt, Deacon is there to wipe the slate and start afresh, yet all the while, the same notion and intent for creation remains as is always the case.

This leads straight into the album's grand four-part delivery of emotion and melody in its self-titled conceptualization of composition and movement - a neon-glowing romanticist journey for the 21st century. 'Is A Monster', the first part starts off in this deepened passage of strings and brass, mellow orchestration setting the mood for what quickly becomes an escalation of emotion. Through Deacon's pounding drum beats and buzzes of electronics fluttering in close proximity, it quickly takes centre stage in the second part, 'The Great American Desert'. While the rhythm is kept at a constant charge, there is still this awe and expanse that switches from percussion to dreamy vocals to the quirkiness and chirpiness of electronics, and then returning finally to part three's jungle-like density of drums that sails and sways its way into first, a chilled somber passing, and finally - rounding off the four-piece - a resurgence of rusty beats and gritty synthesizer hooks.

For anyone who wasn't entirely convinced or even interested, prior to this release, about Dan Deacon's ambition, me included (even if it's admittedly less focused on the music and more on the man), this is the album that will without a doubt change that immovable stance. 'America' is a shining example of a record that both shows no stereotypes against the music, yet draws on that same somewhat bias presentation in gifting us a sound that is danceable, yet so too discoverable. Without totally digesting this sound's ambitious venturing of wide-scope sound and glorifying electronic hooks, it's an album with immense energy and immersing passion. Choose to digest it however, and what you'll find is a record not just for the country and the land Deacon recognizes as his own, but so too a sound and an overwhelming notion - numerous notions, in fact - that we, as a people, recognize as the underlining spirit of electronic music. And Dan Deacon, of the musicians that grew up with this sound, is a man that cements that identification, with passion and with perfection.
~Jordan

8.5

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