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Dan Deacon
America Adam Bouyamourn , August 31st, 2012 07:50

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Dan Deacon’s palette has widened. His trademark battery of ostinato drums and ecstatic nitrogenated dwarf-voices is here accompanied by swooping orchestral motifs, horns, and shotgun blasts of sheer sawing noise. The listener must be prepared to scale several face-high walls of sound. These are thick, complex bombardments of glee and energy, peppered with Deacon’s usual idiosyncrasies.

Deacon sits identifiably in the tradition of minimalism, despite his music’s considerable amplitude: how layers appear, play with one another, and disappear, is almost as important as how each sounds solo. His classical credentials are considerable, but the artistic ambition is swamped by an overwhelming desire to have fun. Polyrhythms are central. Triplets clash with duplets, desynchronise, and synchronise again. Fans of pizzicato strings, ticking clocks, Steve Reich, and happy hardcore will be pleased, sometimes simultaneously. It can be a challenging listen: a pre-emptive Nurofen or two would be advisable. The album’s opening is a sharp painful pulse, a loud guttural roar demanding that we pay the artist the respect he wants to deserve.

Has Dan Deacon grown up? Bromst and Spiderman of the Rings offered music for geniuses to get stupid to. The Deacon of 2009 wanted to construct communities of frantic, frolicking aesthetes. Achievable, when you play enough festivals. To portray America, by contrast, is no mean feat. I don’t think Deacon’s style is sufficiently expressive to meet that challenge: very rapid electronic music suffers limitations that literature, say, doesn’t. But the attempt brings out the best in him. The USA suite is a merry sonic romp, which throws woodwind and brass rewardingly into the percussive melee. At its blistering pace, it’s easy to imagine a frenetic train ride through dustbowl flats pockmarked by tattered gas stations and convenience stores. Indeed, we're told that touring by train served as partial inspiration for the album. Or perhaps it conjures Dan Deacon, huddled over a rack of synthesizers, fantasizing about white picket fences. The textures are sublime, even if conspiracy theorists may notice a marked similarity between ‘USA I: Is a Monster’ and the finale to Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Elsewhere Deacon touts his developed songwriting skills: ‘True Thrush’ has gorgeous, joyful harmonies even as its elements are overlaid with thick furs of fuzz, while ‘Prettyboy’ is the finale music for a thoughtful Japanese video game. Evidence of Deacon’s burgeoning emotional intelligence at the fore and aft of the album flanks angry ‘Lots’ and ‘Crash Jam’, whose bawling rampages kowtow the listener into submission with overdriven vocals stapled to drums that imitate irate lorry pistons.

The album’s opening trio of tracks beat any of Deacon’s previous tracks in pairwise comparisons. A dash of extra variety, and an increasing ability to transform clever layers of sound into well-structured songs, make this his best contribution to date. But the USA suite steals the show. Let’s hope the Deacon of the future suffers from further delusions of grandeur.

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Aug 31, 2012 11:25pm

Dan Deacon's _palette_.

Pretty rocky way to start a review.

Also, Snookered is still his best song and this album is mildly disappointing.

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Max Mighty
Jan 3, 2013 1:21am

I just saw he's band on some late night last night. I honestly took it's annoying, meaningless, and freaky. It's very stupid and a waste of time. People actually listen to he's fake music and labeled him an actual singer is beyond imagination. It is unbelievable that music like he's kurtz even ever became popular.

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Max Mighty
Jan 3, 2013 1:44am

I just saw he's entire band perform on nbc, it was a late night show. I wouldn't compare he's stupid music, a waste of time, to a top knotch entertainer like weird al. Weird al made some logic and sense in every video on vh1 and etc. Dan isn't dancing, rhyming, or even singing. LMAO I wouldn't compare he's work to justin dumb ass bieber. How could a annoying band like deacons ever be allowed to go on tv and fool people into thinking that he's music or what ever he calls it is worth liking, or listening?

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