Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review: Dan Deacon - Bromst (* * * *)

If there's one thing we've learned that we can assume about Dan Deacon, it's that we should have no expectations. Not only does Deacon make unclassifiable, explosive electronic music, but it's impossible to know where he's going next. His new album, Bromst, was formed after Deacon was able to secure the means to record the music the way he wanted, partially live, on good equipment that could provide him with the ability to create the quality of sound that would be necessary. While what could be considered his commercial debut, 2007's Spiderman of the Rings, was completely comprised of electronics, the new record features a combination of organic instrumentation and programming, brushing more often against pop-oriented musical territory.

Opener "Build Voice" is a good example of Deacon's more accessible new approach. The appropriately titled tune starts with looped synth samples over slowly building vocals that eventually erupts joyously with piano, drums, and some horns in a beautiful mess of sound that's both weird and immediately appealing. Among the generally more approachable songs are the fuzzy, mallet-heavy, "Paddington Ghost," the warm, tribal-sounding "Of the Mountains," and the epic "Surprise Stefani." Keep in mind that these songs get nowhere near what most people would consider 'normal,' but the layers of unusual instrumentation and constantly shifting tempos don't keep the music from being relatable and enjoyable.

The other songs on the record remain highly experimental and especially bizarre, but no less fascinating or entertaining. The second half of the album is where Deacon really gets out there, like the haunting all-female vocal harmony on "Wet Wings" that's both soulful and quite strange, or the canine inspired "Woof Woof" that features electronic dog noises and warped voices in a cacophonous electro-rock number. At first, it can be easy to forget that there is some real musical method to the madness. A classically trained musician, Deacon certainly has a flair for the weird and wacky, but he also has enough talent to organize everything in a meaningful way. As you become accustomed to his style, some breathtaking moments reveal themselves from the noise, like the stunning piano composition on the latter half of "Slow With Horns / Run For Your Life," or the beautifully busy climax of the finale, "Get Older."

Dan Deacon is still miles removed from any other electronic artist past or present, and he seems to be refining his craft to create maximum impact from his intelligent and fantastical electronic arrangements. Bromst is a wild, hour-long ride that both pushes boundaries and feels more grounded than his past work, resulting in a truly unique and rewarding musical journey.

You can't really describe the music that Deacon creates, so you should experience it for yourself. Check out his MySpace to hear some tunes.