Monday, June 1, 2009

AOTW - Bromst by Dan Deacon


Ok guys, I want you to trust me on this one. I'm starting this off with a big caveat - I am well aware that this may not be to everyone's taste. I am also aware that some people may get halfway through track two and curse my name eternally (Lord knows, Mrs Frod did, stomping upstairs in high dudgeon muttering darkly about 'proper music...'). BUT I also am aware that everyone liking something isn't the point and would hope that if I give you my marker on this one then not all of you will call it in at the same time.

So Dan Deacon, then. To give you a few facts, Deacon is an electronic musician who is central to Baltimore's Wham City convocation of artists and scenesters. He is a balding, bespectacled, rotund fellow who has a masters in Electronic Composition and Production (or something). He is, to say the least, qualified.

Bromst is Deacon's second album proper, following the euphoric whimsy of 2007's Spiderman of the Rings, and it is, to say the least, incredible. It came out a few months ago now and has slowly but surely gained an awful lot of plaudits. Whilst not to everyone's taste (I have seen boards on Drownedinsound claiming it to be one of the worst albums of all time) the record hits a different nerve to anything else I have heard recently. It sees a move away from jokey samples and irritating loops and into a much broader, more emotional space, at times inviting favourable comparison with electronic art/music pioneers like Reich and Glass.

Deacon works with tools and with sounds that are often recognisable - simple chord progressions ripped from classic surf rock, chanted vocals, layered drums, buzzing synths - but splices them together or deconstructs them in such a way as to be something strangely other. Many of his songs sabotage flagrant catchiness with batshit electronic squall - see particularly track two, Red F, which many listeners find a little too awkward and yet which seems to me to fuzz directly to that part of the brain that feels like falling in love - and his use of heavily treated vocals calls to mind Battles or The Knife and their creation of difficult, different music. The closing track, Get Older, also veers toward the difficult, repeating and repeating and building and building, it strives to dangle the listener ever closer to a release but, like Justice's Stress, makes you work damn hard to get there.

So if all this sounds a bit like art as music as punishment as art, then you might be a bit right. But allied to this there are some simply amazing tunes. See how the opener, Build Voice, literally builds from silence to something awesome. See how Surprise Stefani ends in the most shimmeringly glorious way possible. See how Wet Wings manipulates the old spiritual into something altogether quite affecting. See how Woof Woof then takes this mood and shoves it aside with one hell of a bass riff.

On top of all this Snookered is, almost certainly, my favourite song of the year so far and Slow With Horns/Run For Your Life makes me want to marry Mrs Frod all over again so that she can walk down the aisle to it. I don't want to overstate it too much, but I feel that this album succeeds on so many levels - as pop, as art, as noise, as dance, as emotionally resonant indie - that it truly is the work of someone special. I hope that some of you agree.

PLUS, if reports are to be believed, his live show (man stands at table of taped-up electronics in middle of crowd, 16 musicians join him, crowd play party games and join in with songs) is something else. He plays Manchester tomorrow night and ULU in London on Friday night. There are tickets still available and mine only cost £11. I am practically weeing with anticipation.

Enjoy. I hope.

26 comments:

snadfrod said...

Apologies for my slow computer - the album is on its way into the dropbox, but has about another 40 minutes to go. Soon...

DarceysDad said...

11 songs, 117MB? If so, got it. It's lined up to play immediately after BaBe's playlist above.

saneshane said...

(insert song dissection in here.. that I've just deleted accidently.. I have to sleep now, so can't re- type all the rubbish I just spouted)
what's left is below:


But as a whole album it's going to annoy me (and I like this sorta stuff) it will definitely be on my driving pod this week (but random with other stuff), because an individual track juxtaposed between more conventional songs will work.. and I want to listen more, but not in one sitting.

I've been meaning to check this out, so glad you've put this up.

(this is first listen to reaction, it may well change with time)

DarceysDad said...

Mmpff! Too harsh for this time of night ... I'll have another go tomorrow.

snadfrod said...

DsD - I totally understand that reaction. But I did warn you... Cheers for being big enough to get back on the horse later on.

Shane - again, I understand what you're saying. The album as a whole crept up on me after bits of it popped up on random plays. Stuff that works well in isolation needs a while before it gels as a whole. The annoyance of bits of it is something that passed for me, but I don't know if it would for everyone.

Oh and happy birthday to you, sir. All the best.

steenbeck said...

Hey, I like it! I wasn't sure what to expect. But it's very melodic, and just eccentric enough to keep you guessing. And I was listening to Surprise Stefani and Isaac said, That's a Nice song, Mama.

Hope to get to the rest of the album later today.

snadfrod said...

Hey Steen, massive massive hipster points for Isaac! Not sure what the surprise is or where the Stefani might be but I'm glad you're liking it. Cheers.

Shoey said...

Seem to have a couple of his tunes - but nothing from thid album. Have to agree, on 1st listen, that he does over egg the pudding. He could use a decent editor/collaborator to enforce a little restraint or a large dog to bite him when he reaches for one button too many. Strangely, I feel that there is also something missing - but can't quite decide what.

There is some great stuff burried in here - but too much going on to make for a complete start to finish album for me. Oh, that's what Shane said, isn't it? I'll shut up then.

Another more than worthy AOTW (although the jury still seems to be deliberating on your film picks Mr. Frod). Cheers.

Shoey said...

Thid? Where the hell is Job's when you need him? Anyhow was going to add that I thought the album cover was shit. But now I can imagine the man himself banging away in his tent (on his keyboard, on his keyboard), so now it's growing on me.

SatanKidneyPie said...

Really enjoyed this AOTW after struggling to engage with the last couple. (I've not been afforded much blog time over the last couple of weeks as Mrs Kidney Pie's in furious nesting mode after we discovered she's 18 weeks pregnant rather than the 11 we had calculated it as - damn you, mathematics!) I didn't find Bromst annoying at all and have given it quite a few listens now. I think most tracks have something going for them (be it a catchy riff or a humdinger of a bass line), to the extent where I found much of it very accessible. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Snadfrod

DarceysDad said...

Congrats to the SKP's for the missus being in the SatanKidneyPudding Club ... get that extension built NOW - you're going to need it this Christmas Day!!!

Ÿ

snadfrod said...

Shoey - like I said to Shane, I can understand that position, totally, and thanks for listening.

I quite like the album cover, though, and admire the fact that the CD comes with a cardboard inlay allowing you to make your own cut-out-and-keep 'Bromstent'. Oh and if you could hurry the film jury up I'd be grateful...

SKP - cheers for the comments and I'm delighted you are enjoying it. The combination of catchiness and glitchiness does it for me every time.

And HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to you and Mrs Satan on the news of your impending, um, dumpling. Is it your first? Just one question, though, how in the heck did you manage to be 7 weeks out?

SatanKidneyPie said...

Cheers for the congrats, guys. This will actually double the number of Satanic offspring: Little Miss Satan is just over 18 months old.

We were misled by 2 separate pregnancy tests which must have been false negatives. Mrs KidneyPie was terrified that the reason she was getting so big was cos there were twins in there; we know now that this is due to the advanced state of the pregnancy, so she's mightily relieved.

Is the first Dan Deacon album worth a listen?

snadfrod said...

SKP - its definitely worth a go. As I touched on in the post, its a bit more whimsical (the first track loops a Woody Woodpecker sample to an almost ridiculous extent) but its also a bit more ecstatic, if that makes sense. Even aside from anything else, The Crystal Cat and Wham City! are two of the most gloriously uplifting and invigorating tunes you could ever hope to hear.

Glad to hear it was just duff pregnancy tests (there's always that 1%, isn't there?) and I hope all is well, even if there is only one in there...

Japanther said...

Big big congratulations to SKP for the impending arrival.

@Snad - it's on my schedule to listen to tomorrow, will get back with a full analysis then.

SA said...

While the idea of lots of little Satans running around is quite appealing I am pretty relieved it's not twins. As I said above, I'm no mathematician, but the chances of having 2 negative tests must be pretty remote... but I don't think I'll dwell on that for too long as it'll probably make my head hurt.

SatanKidneyPie said...

Not SA, obviously...

saneshane said...

congrats to the SKP family...
(can we all convince Ms. sane now a second would be good before I hit 40 next year AND MY LIFE IS OVER! (joke steen, it's only a number)

@snadfrod
it's worked today mixed up with 4 other albums, about 3 songs are still annoying me, mostly because I would really enjoy them if he hadn't farted about so much.. but would have gone to see him live on Friday.. it sounds interesting to say the least, a cracking night I'm sure.

snadfrod said...

@shane, glad to hear it. I reckon I know at least two of the tunes you mean, too.

Just so you know, though, the gig is this Friday coming, not last week. I may have misunderstood you, but if you are interested, tickets are still left...

DarceysDad said...

@ shane - To Mrs Saneshane, DarceysMam & I were both 41 when we had Darcey: GO FOR IT!!!!

DarceysDad said...

Right, Snadfrod, I've sussed what my problem is with this album.

Partly to back up what Shane and Shoey have said, it's too overblown. I'm never going to like stuff like Red F in a month of Sundays, and the best moment in Woof Woof is when it mercifully stops assaulting me at 4m40sec!

But as a crude generalisation, if you faded out most of the songs half/two-thirds of the way in, I could cope with them. I could get to like Snookered, and particularly On The Mountains if they were edited as per suggestion.

As it is, he just doesn't know when to bloody well stop adding and adding and adding. Ask a cyclist: when there's no summit in sight, the effort to get up a hill stops being an adrenalized feeling of euphoria and instead becomes a disheartening grind.

When he does take the slope both ways - Surprise Stefani, for instance - it demonstrates my other issue with it, namely that his sampling and twisting turns individual organic sounds into something just too gratingly mechanical. Compare and contrast with something like the Chemical Brothers' Sunshine Underground, which I love.

Which brings me on to a possible answer to Shoey's query about what's missing - a danceable rhythm, maybe?? This album is far too "up" to be aimed at the headphones&eyes-closed relaxers, but (apart from Get Older) nowhere near the pitch/tempo required by a club crowd ... or am I just showing my grumpy aal'git tendencies again?

Bottom line, Snadfrod, this is unsurprisingly not my kind of thing, and you haven't managed to change that view. Don't expect to see me on Friday!

;o)

Japanther said...

OK, had a good ol' listen on the train today.

Basically I liked it. It reminded me of Animal Collective in places and the effect of adding and adding worked well for me.
It didn't grab me by the throat and demand that I put it on repeat, but I feel it may be one of those records that takes a few listens to get comfortable with.
Nice choice Snad. and we'll expect a full gig report on Saturday.

snadfrod said...

Cheers 'panth, the full gig report will for sure be posted (although I'm supposed to be at the Oval for World Twenty20 on Saturday morning, so lord knows how that will play out...). It definitely gives more back the more you give to it, so I hope you manage to unravel it further. I reckon the AC comparison holds up in places, too, good shout.

@DsD - first of all, full respect for listening enough to be able to so eloquently put your case. Its a shame I wasn't able to convert you (I was toying with doing black Mountain for AOTW instead, not least cos I reckoned you'd love it. Have you heard them?). I can't disagree with you, though, as a lot of what you say is true, but they are things that make it brilliant for me.

What I would say in its defence, though, is that I'm not sure it is intended as either 'dance' or 'chill' or anything in between. I see Deacon as being at the more mainstream, poppy end of an electronic scene that makes deliberately hard, almost unlistenable music and challenges the listener to unpick the melodies and the depth within. Artists like Fennesz and Merzbow are making often brutal electronic music that can take an age to unravel and can be more than a little dispiriting.

Deacon, instead, is layering and blending elements that all have a grounding in pop or in dance. The fact that they get so dense and layered is what makes each song a challenge for me, but one that rewards every time as there is something beautiful, or interesting or just plain euphoric in every song. The more I listen to Red F, for example, the more I am sure of its brilliance. The moment at 1'50" where the low, slow vocal comes in is just breathtaking.

So I guess the point for me is that every song may have a lot of stuff in it, but it also has a lot of great stuff in it, too. Deacon isn't scattershot, either, these songs are well constructed and almost every one has a payoff whereby all the layers and repetitions come together to create a coherent, thrilling whole.

Its a bit like Mogwai Fear Satan. 16 minutes of lots and lots of stuff, but through it runs that flute melody which makes it a beautiful and engaging song for me and gets me every time.

Plus, I reckon you CAN dance to it and hereby declare my intention to do so on Friday night. Like a twitchy idiot.

Now get back to bed, grandpa, and let the kids have their music on. ;-)

Anonymous said...

You really should check out this new dance band from Boston, BEARSTRONAUT. They just put out this new EP thats amazing, the song "wire" will make you freak out.
really,
check out their myspace... www.myspace.com/bearstronautmusic

snadfrod said...

DsD, is that you? Cheers for the tip!

DarceysDad said...

Nah, wasn't me. PHB perhaps?

;o)