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Deerhunter – Monomania

Deerhunter / Monomania /  Out via 4AD on May 7th, 2013

Like any well-oiled pop machine, Atlanta’s avant-garage outfit Deerhunter knows when to slowly gas the psych propellers into an ambient blissout, and bust out pedal-to-the-metal spurts of pure punk rock as soon as the lighters get raised. The band’s fifth studio album Monomania dropped May 7th via 4AD, this time forgoing the astral plane explorations of their sonically anarchic back catalog, and opting instead for a more concise pop record that snaps and crackles in equal measure. The interstellar improv and dream pop sensibility that once resonated at galactic proportions in earlier releases is tighter than ever, as though transmissions between ground control and the International Space Station achieved a crystal-clear moment of recognition, to produce a new release that is surprisingly grounded.

Amidst the bray of garage-punk snarls and slow burning shoegaze longplayers of recent days, it’s hard to tell if and when the genetics of alt rock will see the promise of mutation. In a culture-jamming return to form,  frontman Bradford Cox told Rolling Stone that he and guitarist Lockett Pundt listened to only The Ramones and Ricky Nelson prior to making the album, and also cited Pierre Schaeffer, Steve Reich, and Bo Diddley as major influences. In fact, Cox referred to Diddley as “the god of this record,” but added, “I don’t think there’s a single Bo Diddley beat on the album.” Regardless of its precise coordinates, Monomania is a refreshingly relaxed moment amidst the fluorescent junk-pop riffs and celestial loops that combine to form Deerhunter’s weird era of psych-rock ephemera.

Feedback freakouts “Neon Junkyard” and “Leather Jacket II” open the band’s sixth studio album with freshly sharpened bite, pedaling onward without a moment’s fiery respite. Third track “The Missing” casts a synth-soaked ray of sunshine into the shimmering sea of kraut grooves that comprised Pundt’s 2012 release Spooky Action at a Distance, drifting into the hustle and creak of “Pensacola” and “Dream Captain”, freak folk Americana jams sporting a looser, garagey feel that evokes the DIY tape hiss of psych-rock contemporaries Woods. Saloon waltz “T.H.M.”, the meandering strings of “Sleepwalking”, and tightly capped jam “Back in the Middle” tread familiar ground in the newgaze post-explorations of Deerhunter’s back catalog. Five-minute title drone “Monomania” trickles into the cavernous cassette echo of “Nikebike”, proceeding through dirge to draw open the ultraviolet shades of “Punk (La Vie Antérieure)” for a final wave as the sun sets over a decidedly “avant-garde rock & roll record”, according to vocalist Bradford Cox in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. If their 2010 release Halcyon Digest didn’t hammer your tympanic threshold into metronomic submission, let the message ring forevermore that while indie festival darlings are only beginning to touch on the apache anthems and art-rock tinkering of the early 2000’s, Deerhunter continues make giant leaps forward, without all the white noise to mute their sonic footprint.

parallaxIIfuturesequence

Between the Buried and Me’s Newest Album Teases With Some Sexy Foreplay But Will Never Call Back

When Between the Buried and Me came to San Francisco for Summer Slaughter, I had the great fortune to sit down with Dan Briggs and Dustie Waring. Of course, one of the main things we discussed in detail was their newest addition to their diverse discography, The Parallax II: Future Sequence. We talked extensively about the new record, but one thing Dustie told me really stuck out to me; he seemed to genuinely think that it was their best musical venture they had ever created. Unfortunately, I very highly disagree with that statement.

Tracklist
1. Goodbye To Everything
2. Astral Body
3. Lay Your Ghosts To Rest
4. Autumn
5. Extremophile Elite
6. Parallax
7. The Black Box
8. Telos
9. Bloom
10. Melting City
11. Silent Fight Parliament
12. Goodbye To Everything (Reprise)

 

Both musically and conceptually, TPII begins right where The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues left off. The only problem is that it’s start is a little too awkward and jerky. After the intro, “Goodbye to Everything”, we get a little build up that leads into “Astral Body”, but it never really feels or conveys like we’re going onto this awesome musical journey into space where we’ll proceed to have our brains made sweet sweet love to. Ultimately, “Astral Body” seems very out of place as the beginning track. Fortunately, it leads very smoothly right into the next track, “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest”, which is in itself a very solid song. It almost feels as if this should have been the beginning track. This is further perpetuated by the lyrics present towards the last minute or so of the track: “The end, starts now.” In fact, a good chunk of the album sounds like it shouldn’t be there at all. “Autumn” is just a filler track before the meaty “Extremophile Elite”, and “Parallax” doesn’t fundamentally serve a purpose besides some basic storytelling.

Of course, there are more than enough redeeming factors to make this a worthwhile listen. They’ve seemed to realize that their musical endeavors can get bogged down by their penchant for unnecessary wankery, which they have undertaken to fix this time around, with moderate success. While addressing those complaints, they haven’t forgotten what’s made them one of the biggest progressive metal acts around. There is still a ton of weirdness and craziness present in the album, such as the very “sitary” reference to last year’s EP, and the utterly soul crushing breakdown in “Telos”. “Bloom” is also an incredibly fun listen, if a little out of place.

While the first 45 minutes are a sensory overload (for better or worse), the last 30 minutes of the record display some mind boggling and questionable songwriting decisions. There is the occasional segment of exorbitant showoffiness mixed with some seemingly random riffage, but the big difference between TPII‘s examples of etravagance and their previous efforts is the lack of an ultimate climax (stop your snickering). Once I had finally traversed through the drudgery of their instrument work and reached the end of my journey throughout Colors and The Great Misdirect, I felt like I could put the record away, that there was a satisfying conclusion to the melodious struggle that I had just experienced. This was what defined my time with BTBAM: the breathtaking and exciting climaxes that I felt throughout each and every one of their albums. However, with TPII, I experienced no such climactic feeling. I still had a sense of moving forward even though I had conclusively reached the end of the groundwork that BTBAM had orchestrated for me. It all adds up to a very anticlimactic finish from what is an otherwise pleasant aural eargasm.

Overall, TPII is a solid outing from BTBAM, though one can’t help but get the feeling that more could have been accomplished here. BTBAM tried to do too much and not enough at the same time, and while their newest release indicates that they are indeed moving forward, it also suggests that they’ve lost a step or two in their songwriting prowess along the way. Still, it’s hard not to be hopeful for the future. If BTBAM can execute more or less what they’ve done in TPII without the occasional clumsiness and stumble, it’ll be incredibly difficult for any band to top what they can deliver.

FINAL SUPER ULTIMATE RATING:

(3.5 Brutalisks out of 5)