Baltimore-based composer Dan Deacon surfaced with the intricate collages of
Spiderman of the Rings (Carpark, 2007), that mixed
orchestral arrangements, electronic beats and childish madness.
The instrumentals are particularly promiscuous.
Wooody Wooodpecker a is a musix-box of xylophone, looped cartoon voices
and synthesizer that suddenly soars like a Bach fugue. The Bach influence
continues on Pink Batman, virtually a spiraling sonata for pipe organ
played at double speed.
Jimmy Joe Roche is a glorious melody warped and stretched to the limit
by a gang of synthesizers.
The songs perform strange surgical operations on the body of popular music.
The Crystal Cat takes a synthetic techno beat and turns it into a
twist-like beat of the 1960s; and its fast-forwarded rigmarole sounds like a
parody of old bubblegum hits. By the same token,
the wild fenzied party dance Okie Dokie could be an alien cover of
Twist And Shout.
The border between alien and cartoonish is further explored in
the demented disco novelty Trippy Green Skull, a sort of
Giorgio Moroder for nursery schools.
The 12-minute Wham City stood as the manifesto of this art that mixed
his avantgarde background (for example, minimalist repetition)
and his subcultural passions (for example, the cartoonish singalong),
the Animal Collective and
Bromst (Carpark, 2009) was less hilarious and more contemplative,
as if Deacon had suddenly realized that his novelty was worth a lot more
than just a juvenile joke.
Build Voice arrives from very far: a buzz of looped voices slowly
builds up and is surrounded by all sorts of new sounds, including
Brian Eno-esque vocals singing a childish lullaby.
The piece soon become an exercise in chaotic collective minimalist repetition
at a feverish tempo. After a quick ragtime-like piano solo, the coda is
a frenzied horn fanfare worthy of Michael Nyman.
A piercing, drilling drone launches Red F, another Eno-esque singalong
that explores even more rhythmic post-techno soundscapes, grounded in
Neu's "motorik" and a videogame's soundtracks.
The mostly instrumental Paddling Ghost returns to the jovial atmosphere
of the first album, which in turn harked back to the disco novelties of the
late 1970s (this one with a hyper-ska beat and cartoonish voices).
For about three minutes Snookered is a relatively calm song with
sooting arrangements, but then the drum-beat doubles in speed and everything
starts spinning out of control, particularly the crazy, fractured and distored
voice (almost a rockabilly-style hiccup) and the gnome-like voices that spring
up around it.
Marimba and glockenspiel tinge the seven-minute Of The Mountains of
an exotic flavor, and the rhythm (not only the electronic beat but also the
voices that contribute to it) keeps mutating around a mechanical pow-wow beat.
The eight-minute Surprise Stefani uses again the voice as the main rhythmic element, which is then passed on to the drums and finally to the marimba.
The brief Wet Wings is the most psychedelic experiment: just floating
Woof Woof displays one of the most captivating rhythms, a
Disney-like ballet for a multitude of micro-voices that turns into a
psychedelic merry-go-round, like a truly demented version of the Beatles'
Magical Mystery Tour.
Baltihorse is its demonic counterpart, beginning and ending in extreme
frenzied mode with an instrumental intermezzo of eerie dance steps for
(synth-produced) harpsichord and marimba.
And the closing Get Older is the ultimate scream: all instruments turned
to maximum volume and pulsating manically.
The vocal experiments resurrect a glorious tradition that had almost died with
Frank Zappa, and that harks back to the
Fugs' Virgin Forest.
Cartoonish voices intone incoherently majestic melodies that are reprised in
counterpoint by the regular male register (sometimes itself overdubbed).
The common denominator of all the pieces (and what is unique about Deacon)
is the visceral impact and the dense textures. In a sense Deacon is the first
composer who truly continues and fulfils the experiment begun 20 years
earlier by Vampire Rodents.
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