Friday, 21 November 2008

Deerhunter- 'Microcastle' (4AD)

Mr Bradford Cox is a prolific man. Not content with releasing a solo album earlier this year, or the last Deerhoof album in 2007, he now returns with an album, which comes with a bonus album ('Weird Era Cont.') because 'Microcastle' leaked so early. See, piracy does work.

This beautiful album of dream pop starts with 'Cover Me Slowly' and its conjoined twin 'Agoraphobia'. Guitars seem to shift in slow motion, like seismic plates, or zero gravity drift. In a less pretentious way, it sounds fucking epic. The expansiveness of the sound is contrasted to the vocals, of wanting to hide away and fade. As Bradford says: “I want only to see, four walls made of concrete, six by six enclosed.”

The echo laden guitars also appear on 'Never Stops' where the shoegaze guitars come out to play. And shoegaze seems to be the right word, with effects laden guitars often hiding the pop melodies that lie inside, just like what My Bloody Valentine used to do. Bradford Cox often claims to take influences from doowop and 50s music too, and these can be seen on 'Never Stops', as well as on the casually strummed intro to 'Microcastle' before the fuzzed out guitars join in again.

'Calvary Scars' is based on a delicate acoustic guitar, and a gentle croon, like a sweetly sung lullaby, but without the desire to sleep, just to revel in its languid beauty. And all this despite of lyrics so typically dark of Deerhunter, featuring the sole line “crucified on a cross in front of all my closest friends.” The pop skeleton still shines through, whatever shade is placed to hide it.

Sadly, on an album so full of gorgeous melodies there is the odd moment that drags. One of these is 'Activa', which as pretty as it sounds, meanders too much, even over it's short minute and a half length. Fortunately, the impetus is soon restored with 'Nothing Ever Happened', which starts with a riff that sounds like it was nabbed straight from the Stone Roses before driving guitars take over and Deerhunter reach their most commercial moment. Surprise surprise, it was the first single. Oh, you cynical record label you.

'Saved By Old Times' reveals the one chink in Deerhunter's impressive coat of armour. It is the lyrics. Simplicity is not an issue, but waffling on saying “We were captured by Victorian vampires,
with elaborate designs” is not winning over the lyrics place, sorry. No matter how good the music is, you just end up with a little cringey judder running through your body.

The reverb laden guitar return on 'Neither Of Us, Uncertainly', layers of sound built up into music that sounds simple despite of its elaborate construction. 'Twilight At Carbon Lake', the album closer, starts with a woozy, lethargic feel to its slurry guitar lines, and just adds further to the feeling of relaxation that seeps through 'Microcastle.' But then things get nice and loud, like all final tracks should, as layers build into skyscrapers, drums are (finally) pounded with iron sticks, and all with that shoegaze angelic vocal over the top.

It's a reminder that Deerhunter can do loud as well as quiet. However prolific Bradford Cox is, it seems, unlike some, cough Devendra cough Banhart cough, he manages to keep the quality of his produce at a stratospheric level throughout. And that prolificness and the giving to fans, is what makes Deerhunter one of the most important bands of the moment.

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