Deerhunter, led by guitarists Colin Mee and Lockett Pundt and vocalist Bradford
Cox, are late shoegazers who split
Cryptograms (Kranky, 2007) between surreal instrumentals and
After the Intro of disquieting "musique concrete",
Cryptograms sets the standard for the songs of the album:
a danceable syncopated rhythm that slowly mutates into a Neu-style "motorik" and a repetitive guitar chord that hints at an anthemic riff without ever delivering it provide the foundations for the singer's rousing mantra.
After a mini-symphony of soaring guitar vibratos and layered instrumental sounds with no drums (White Ink), that provides a glimpse into the spiritual side of their music, the band intones the limping, angular cry of Lake Somerset, with menacing bass and crunching guitar clashing over a quasi-ska beat.
After an instrumental of floating Indian-tinged tones (Providence),
the eight-minute Octet opens with a lengthy sequence of repetitive guitar staccatos and manipulated voices at a relentless rhythm that slowly mutates into a shimmering "motorik" locomotive (also an instrumental piece).
The quietly droning Red Ink introduces to two ditties in the vein of the
Spring Hall Convert and Strange Lights. This last section of the
album is more derivative of conventional psychedelic pop and vastly less
interesting than the previous sections.
The EP Fluorescent Grey (2007) adds four more songs.
Atlas Sound, the brainchild of Bradford Cox, took Deerhunter's pensive side
to new heights on
Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (Kranky, 2008),
a collection of bedroom ditties for the digital age.
Bradford's attention to detail and eccentric constructs occasionally
looked like an attempt to promote himself as a
more profound, less operatic and male successor of
Bjork, but the broad palette of
as well as his intense singing,
affirmed the same schizophrenic vision of life of Deerhunter.
Much of what Cox does is a
disorienting juxtaposition of vocal and instrumental events:
mellow sleep-inducing lullaby and loud distorted guitar in
romantic crooning and background noise in Bite Marks,
suave melodic progression and tinkling keyboards in River Card;
and particularly the most "sideral" moments,
Winter Vacation and Small Horror, that juxtapose
floating organ chords and dilated moans.
Cox also excels at engineering
layered and mutating rhythms, inspired by both gamelan and minimalism,
as he does in
Scraping Past and
Ready Set Glow.
It is debatable whether the vocals (and the lyrics) add to or detract
from the project.
Deerhunter's second album
Microcastle (Kranky, 2008), featuring new guitarist Whitney Petty,
was a more conventional effort with gentler and simpler refrains than the previous
Deerhunter album. Reducing both the ambitions and the stylistic spectrum,
Deerhunter contented themselves with a diligent incursion into
psychedelic pop a` la Paisley Underground of the 1980s.
The resulting tunes are saved from Brit-poppish routine
by Bradford Cox's personal psychodrama.
A few songs are faux avantgarde a` la Radiohead
Since they are all whispered pretty much in the same register, what distinguishes most of the lullabies is the guitar work:
the jangling tapestry of Agoraphobia,
the shoegazing noise of Never Stops,
The band experiments cautiously with contrasts and surprises.
The stately drumming crescendo of Little Kids (perhaps the standout)
transforms harp-like dripping guitar notes into a stormy cacophony of distortions.
The naked whisper of Microcastle is suddenly swallowed by a loud wordless guitar melody.
The anemic waltz of Twilight at Carbon Lake collapses into a noisy,
The brief Activa harks back to acid-rock of the Sixties. It represents
the boldest statement of the album, but also an overture of sorts for the
space-folk revision of Saved By Old Times, for the
exotic nuances of Nothing Ever Happened (the undulating melody and the guitar solo),
and for the hypnotic, dreamy These Hands; songs that evoke
the West-Coast sound of the Sixties.
Other than whispering irrelevant lyrics and sometimes just repeating the same
words over and over again, the singer doesn't add much to the sound.
Overall the album steers away from noise and discontinuity, and settles into
a languid mood halfway between a heroin overdose and a lonely walk in the park.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tobia D’Onofrio)
Deerhunter, dalla Georgia, guidati dai chitarristi Colin Mee e
Lockett Pundt e dal cantante Bradford Cox, sono tardi shoegazers che hanno
diviso Cryptograms (Kranky, 2007) tra surreali brani strumentali e
canzoni psichedeliche. Dopo l’Intro di inquietante “musica concreta”, Criptograms stabilisce lo standard per
le canzoni dell’album: la base su cui il cantante solleva il suo mantra è
costituita da un ritmo sincopato ballabile che si trasforma lentamente in un
“motorik” beat alla Neu, e
un ripetitivo accordo di chitarra che accenna un riff con le caratteristiche di
un inno, senza mai completarlo. Dopo averci regalato uno scorcio sul lato
spirituale della loro musica, grazie a una mini-sinfonia senza batteria, fatta di
vertiginosi vibrati di chitarra e suoni strumentali stratificati (White Ink),
il gruppo intona il lamento spigoloso e zoppicante di Lake Somerset, con
un basso minaccioso e una chitarra scricchiolante che stridono su un beat quasi
ska. Dopo uno strumentale di fluttuanti tonalità dalle tinte indiane (Providence), gli otto minuti di Octet partono con una lunga sequenza di
ripetitivi staccati di chitarra e voci manipolate a un ritmo forsennato, per poi
mutare lentamente in una scintillante locomotiva “motorik” (anche questo un
pezzo strumentale). Il quieto droneggiare di Red Ink introduce due canzoncine nella vena dei Flaming Lips: Spring
Hall Convert and Strange Lights. Quest’ultima sezione dell’album è
più derivativa del pop psichedelico convenzionale ed è assai meno interessante
delle precedenti sezioni.
L’EP Fluorescent Grey (2007) aggiunge quattro nuove
Atlas Sound, partorito dalla mente di Bradford Cox, porta il
lato riflessivo dei Deerhunter verso nuove vette con l’album Let The Blind
Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (Kranky, 2008), coniando così una
forma di bedroom-pop per l’era digitale. L’attenzione di Bradford per il
dettaglio e le costruzioni eccentriche, a volte sembra un tentativo di
promuovere se stesso come un più profondo, meno istrionico successore maschile
di Bjork, ma l’ampia tavolozza di Winter Vacation, Quarantined, Bite
Marks, insieme all’intenso cantato fra gli evocativi strumentali, afferma
la stessa schizofrenica visione di vita di Deerhunter.
Rispetto ai precedenti album dei Deerhunter, Microcastle (Kranky, 2008),
in cui figura il nuovo chitarrista Whitney Petty, è un lavoro più convenzionale
con ritornelli più orecchiabili. Riducendo le ambizioni e lo spettro
stilistico, i Deerhunter si accontentano di una diligente incursione nel pop
psichedelico. Le risultanti armonie evitano di cadere nella routine Brit-pop,
grazie allo psicodramma personale di Bradford Cox. Alcune canzioni sono finta
avantgarde alla Radiohead (Nothing Ever Happened, Twilight at Carbon
Lake), ma il grosso dell’album si mantiene lontano dal rumore e dalla
discontinuità. La migliore canzoncina è probabilmente Little Kids.
Deerhunter's five-song EP Rainwater Cassette Exchange (2009) was a light-weight
effort that represented the Deerhunters' more accessible side.
Atlas Sound's Logos (4AD, 2009), compared with the first Atlas
Sound album, is a more focused and narrower work,
The tender aerial lullaby with digital aquatic noises of
The Light That Failed
and the eight-minute whirling psychedelic dance of Quick Canal
(with Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab on vocals) are,
in a sense, the exceptions to the rule,
because the rest sounds like a "normalized" remix of the first album.
Cox dispenses with the sound effects on tunes that are more affecting if
less aurally engaging, such as
the waltzing elegy of An Orchid and
the very subdued Attic Lights.
Walkabout (that features Noah Lennox of the Animal Collective) is a poppy detour into
Beach Boys territory, and
the horror teenage fantasy
Shelia winks at the Merseybeat hits of the same decade.
The last vestige of the first album's repetitive minimalism is to be found in
Washington School, the most digital piece.
baroque production of
Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest (4AD, 2010), with sound effects that
occasionally approach musique concrete,
conceals a totemic tribute to rock history by a victim of manic depression.
Simple lullabies like Don't Cry (that harks back to the naive teenage
introspection of the 1960s)
Basement Scene (that sounds like an Everly Brothers or Buddy Holly cover)
would sound bleak if they weren't drenched in so much sonic sheen and
quotations from musical history.
The languid, hypnotic Pink Floyd-ian ballad
Earthquake, the gently surreal and otherworldly Helicopter,
and the soaring cosmic-sounding Desire Lines are
even more blatant cases of stylistic mismatch: depressed meditations that
would fit the darkest moments of a Neil Young
and instead evoke artificial paradises.
Their choreographic skills are perhaps best demonstrated in the
apathetic late-night pseudo-blues shuffle Sailing, that is not even
Their skills at recreating music of the past, instead, peak with
Memory Boy, a marriage of the most
euphoric Byrds with
Brit-pop of the "Madchester" generation, boasting
keyboards that mimick the jangling guitars of vintage folk-rock.
There is even a trace of
Velvet Underground-ian trance
in the pulsing nonchalance of Fountain Stairs; and an odd incursion
into acid rhythm & blues, Coronado, replete with hoarse horns,
that evokes Bob Dylan fronting the
13th Floor Elevators.
The folkish seven-minute closer, He Would Have Laughed, on the other
hand, sounds a bit self-indulgent.
On this album Deerhunter certainly constitute a formidable pool of talents
(singer Bradford Cox, guitarist Lockett Pundt, bass player Josh Fauver and drummer Moses Archuleta). However, credit must be given to producer
Ben Allen too. He engineered a similar transition for Animal Collective in 2009
towards hyper-emotional audio quality. Too much of a coincidence.
Atlas Sound's third album Parallax (4AD, 2011) is a further step towards
unabashed mainstream music, especially with the
poppy Mona Lisa and My Angel Is Broken.
However, still water runs deep: the friendly atmosphere of
Terra Incognita and Te Amo reveals dark undercurrents,
and the introverted Flagstaff and Doldrums border on
psychological nightmares, which the
morbid Modern Aquatic Nightsongs only accentuates.
Lockett Pundt had debuted his project Lotus Plaza
with the album The Floodlight Collective (Kranky, 2009), a graceful
albeit amateurish collection of pop tunes. The mostly derivative
Spooky Action at a Distance (Kranky, 2012) sounds like a series of
humble tributes to his favorite musicians.
Deerhunter made a U-turn towards a raunchy sound on
Monomania (4AD, 2013). No elegance, but instead
barbaric garage-rock for distorted voices and guitars
as well as chaotic psychedelia
(Leather Jacket II and especially Monomania).
a snorty Bob Dylan-ian rant,
looks for a compromise that would yield a generational anthem of sorts.
Not much to salvage here.
The sleek and bombastic production of
Fading Frontier (4AD, 2015), produced again by
signaled yet another change of direction, one towards warmer and less
claustrophobic atmospheres, but the quality of the songs remained
languid Merseybeat of All The Same , the
ethereal Byrds-ian Living My Life,
the synth-wrapped pop ballad Take Care,
the terrible single Breaker
are songs that any newcomer could craft.
The album gets a little more interesting in the second half, starting with
the slow-motion lounge jazz Leather And Wood and ending with the
Rolling Stones-ian dirge Carrion
The rocking single Snakeskin comes as a breath of fresh air,
with the only guitar riff worthy of that name and a surreal instrumental coda.
Despite lasting only 36 minutes, Fading Frontier feels like full mainly
Fauver, who had already left the band after Halcyon Digest,
died in November 2018.
A bit more energy made the songs of Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? (4AD, 2019), a bit more listenable.
More than "songs" these sound like tributes to the band's idols.
Death In Midsummer, with a cute harpsichord effect,
crashing drums and bagpipe-like synths, harks back to the
psychedelic pop ditties of the 1960s.
The march-tempo No One's Sleeping, with a manic sax crescendo and a great melodic instrumental coda (the best melody of the album), is a
Futurism is exactly the opposite of what the title says: vintage orchestral pop.
On the other hand the instrumental Greenpoint Gothic sounds like a tribute to the electronic vignettes of Gary Numan and to the dystopian new wave of Devo.
If the mellow Element, the atmospheric nostalgic Nocturne, and the piano-led orchestral What Happens To People? feel tentative and unfinished, Tarnung is a charming attempt at sculpting an ambient exotic elegy.
David Sylvian would be proud of this one
(the one song that can really claim to be "futuristic").
Later in the year, Deerhunter released the 13-minute single Timebends, in which
a funky guitar pattern morphs into hypnotic strumming and
polyrhythmic trance before a drum solo leads to the melancholy piano-led
coda and to the last minute of cacophony.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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