(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Cryptograms (2007) , 7/10
Atlas Sound: Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (2008), 6.5/10
Microcastle (2008), 6.5/10
Lotus Plaza: The Floodlight Collective (2009), 5.5/10
Lotus Plaza: Spooky Action at a Distance (2012), 5.5/10
Atlas Sound: Logos (2009), 6/10
Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest Delphic (2010), 7/10
Atlas Sound: Parallax (2011), 6.5/10
Monomania (2013), 4/10
Fading Frontier (2015), 4/10
Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? (2019), 5/10

Georgia-based 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 psychedelic songs. 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 Flaming Lips: 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 his songs 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 Recent Bedroom, 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 Quarantined, 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, etc.
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, cubistic singalong.
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 canzoni.

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.

Ben Allen's 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) and 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 a song. 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 (Neon Junkyard) as well as chaotic psychedelia (Leather Jacket II and especially Monomania). Pensacola, 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 Ben Allen, signaled yet another change of direction, one towards warmer and less claustrophobic atmospheres, but the quality of the songs remained disappointing: the 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 of filler.

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 Kinks-ian number. 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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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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