Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Danny's Noise Became a Force for Good

Dan Deacon - Red F

Nu-rave eh? What happened there then? If you put the glow sticks, the pills and the multi-coloured leggings to one side, you were left with - musically at least - a rather joyless scene, producing very little music worthy of the title. Even the movement's poster boys, Klaxons, were (let's be honest) Jesus Jones with slightly better hair and trousers.

Step forward, then, Dan Deacon, who with his latest album, 'Bromst' - a luminous, euphoric collection of reach-for-the-laser rave epics - has produced an album that captures the giddy emotion of the original rave scene. Each song is heavily daubed in colourful melodies, pummelling Nintendo beats and hooks big enough to catch Moby-Dick.

I'll hold my hand up and say I was never Deacon's biggest fan. The "wacky" warning signs flashed up whenever I heard something by him, watched any number of the garish OTT vids available on YouTube or saw clips of him coercing groups of clubbers into dance-offs during his live set. Think an emo, laptop-wielding Timmy Mallet, and then consign that image to the dustbin...

However, it seems that even Deacon has tired of this perceived persona, and is determined to shake the (perhaps unfairly applied) "wacky" tag with a more mature outlook to making music. And rather than this resulting in an album of po-faced chin scratching and introspection, instead you get a broader, richer sound that still generates extreme levels of energy and excitement. Hey, I can even forgive him his overuse of the voice manipulation software this time around - in this dense, richly layered soup of sound, the vocals become another instrument - an essential component, rather than an irritating quirk. 'Bromst' also has a more organic, less mechanic feel, as Deacon explains -

"It’s different, there’s much less computer and a lot more live instruments (marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, live drummers, player piano, etc) so the sound is a lot more rich. It was recorded to tape with many analogue synths so the sound is not as plasticy… its probably a little more dance at times too but also more intense, varied, serious… the tracks are meant to be listened to as a whole to get the complete experience."

About halfway through the second song, the argy-bargy punishing gabba techno of 'Red F', I lifted my jaw up off the pavement and realised that I was listening to something truly awesome. 'Of the Mountain' is stunning, as Deacon somehow manages to combine the playful twinkling glockenspiels of Penguin Café Orchestra with shamanistic, mantric chanting that wouldn't sound out of place on The Lion King soundtrack, pounding tribal rhythms and a portentous, synth-drenched outro that rivals Arcade Fire in its epic sonic scope. 'Slow With Horns/Run for Your Life' recalls Fuck Buttons distorted analogue drones, adds a cacophonous, almost funereal, wall of horns, before busting out into a tinkling, piano symphony, underpinned by hammering beats. Elsewhere, the bendy twanging 'Woof Woof' is a joy, 'Paddling Ghost' is a nifty slice of 'Bonkers'-style Toytown Happy Hardcore if DJ Sharkey played the marimba, and he even lobs in a curveball in the form of the medieval 'Wet Wings', which consists solely of a haunting, female vocal loops. As if to prove the leopard hasn't totally changed his spots, the chipmunk chorus and quirk-noise of 'Baltihorse' annoys. But that's a minor quibble.

I don't think Dan Deacon needs another blogger jibber-jabbering on about how good 'Bromst' is (Google it and you will see what I mean) but it is an incredible album - more than worthy of my fawning prose - and as this decade comes to a close, it feels like a benchmark for the future has been set.

'Bromst' is released on Carpark Records on March 23rd 2009. You can pre-order it from Norman Records
Dan Deacon's website is still shit but there's loads of free mp3s here
Dan Deacon MySpace