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Rainwater Cassette Exchange Charles Ubaghs , June 29th, 2009 06:28

In previous centuries, nostalgia was once viewed as a crippling medical condition. Soldiers suffering from the Swiss Disease, as it was occasionally known, were viewed as unfit for duty and often pulled from the ranks. Now, of course, we live in an era dominated by nostalgia, with entire industries subsisting on funds earned by dangling cultural artefacts of yesteryear in front of eager kidults.

Nostalgic may not be the first adjective one thinks of when attempting to describe Atlanta, Georgia's Deerhunter, but a fondness for the past does run through the veins of frontman Bradford Cox and friend's body of work. Their sound may not have a rose-tinted hue, but Cox's lyrics often revolve around images of days gone by and the entire band approach their avant-rawk in an accessible manner that's more akin to past iconoclasts than anything hocked by today's current crop of noise-mongers.

Part of this wistful undercurrent is manifested on the physical; or more specifically the joyful anticipation and emotion that once surrounded a record's physical release in the pre-digital era. Last year's Weird Era Continued was originally meant to be a surprise disc for those who bought the CD version of Microcastle, until Cox accidentally leaked the record via the band's blog. Though even if he hadn't blundered, Cox's chanting of "I remember a cassette cathedral" on Weird Era's 'Vox Humana' still shines a bold spotlight on his near-ecclesiastical devotion to albums as art and object.

Deerhunter may have decided to forgo the surprise release route with their latest EP, Rainwater Cassette Exchange, but the Atlanta quartet is once again up to familiar tricks with a tour only, special-edition cassette version of the EP.

Like the audio format it references in the title, Rainwater Cassette Exchange is a more compact entity than its predecessors. It's also Deerhunter's most straightforward, pop-focused work to date. The titular opener veers off in a sub-tropical direction before a warped jangle appears to prop up Cox's high-pitched croon. Structured around an almost radio-friendly stab at garage rock, Cox address his occasionally tumultuous relationship with bloggers and the press on 'Disappearing Ink', before ending it with cries of, "What was I thinking?" It's perhaps 'Game of Diamonds', though, that showcases Deerhunter at their subdued finest with Cox's bandmates coolly erecting a spectral backdrop around the stick-thin singer as he hazily wanders off into another trademark tale of slacker alienation.

Essentially, Rainwater Cassette Exchange is a digest of everything that's made Deerhunter such an enticing proposition these past few years. For the uninitiated, it's an easy entry point. For the long time devotee, it's a shift that marks another move away from the ambient punk tag of earlier days. What that may hold for Deerhunter's future is unclear. But even at their most disposable, and this is_ Deerhunter at their most disposable, few modern bands are capable of matching the craft displayed on _Rainwater.

Bradford Cox and crew may never stop in their quest to leave behind a tangible marker of their musical ambition. Yet if they paused for even a second, they just might notice the permanent impression they've already left on our increasingly intangible landscape.