Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Album Review: Deerhunter - 'Microcastle' released 27/10
Since the release of their eponymous debut in 2005, Deerhunter have occupied an underground space carved of white noise noodling and illuminated by frontman Bradford Cox’s obvious preoccupation with Lou Reed and Brian Eno. But for this, their third album, some of the distortion has been stripped to reveal a surprisingly melodic and complete long player. Microcastle demonstrates that, far from the fuzz of previous albums that had Pitchfork applauding and almost everyone else scratching their heads, Bradford Cox is capable of producing structural form and harmonic variance that comprises modern post-everything songwriting at its most interesting.
Where as 2007’s Cryptograms suffered from stylistic schizophrenia, oscillating between prolonged, self-gratifying ambience and tough post punk aggression, Microcastle is pieced together with self-conscious deliberation. Opener ‘Cover Me’ introduces the album with a steady compound sway and unhurried percussion that breaks into a ticking chug for Agoraphobia, which then endures throughout the first half of the album. Cox’s vocals, frequently fragile and submerged in reverb, are laid uncharacteristically bare for the opening of the eponymous ‘Microcastle’, erupting into a gently glorious vocal refrain, before damp, echoing guitars twinkle on into the delicious lullabye of Cavalry Scars.
The best of Microcastle is in its characteristically prolonged outro. Perhaps the finest work on the album is with the uptempo ‘Nothing Ever Happened’. An insistent bassline drives and anchors ethereal guitar effects, which no long swamp the aural landscape as with Cox’s previous work, instead interweaving with cogitable directness so that diasporic musical elements are matched into the melodic weave flawlessly. ‘Saved By Old Times’ opens with the lazy psychedelic loop of twanging guitars and sees Cox singing of ‘elaborate designs', before slipping into the lysergic ramblings of spoken snippets pieced together by Cole Alexander of the Black Lips. The penultimate ‘Neither Of Us, Uncertainly’ drifts off into an upward piano refrain before the gentle melodia of ‘Twilight At Carbon Lake’, with its rocking, compound rhythm, plays out to growing distortion, ending on chordal fuzz which reminds of Cox’s noise-laden preoccupations.
Where Cryptograms introduced many to a musical outfit prone to fits of artistic impulse beyond the comprehension of many, Microcastle sees the superficial fuzz of some of the most musically elusive of Cox’s compositions stripped away. Without this deceptive obscurantism, Deerhunter evidence themselves as surprisingly melodic and accessible, and reveal a writing talent in Cox that goes beyond the expectations of a large proportion of critics. Cox insisted in a recent interview that he hopes people hate the new album to relieve himself of promotional responsibilities: if Microcastle gets the recognition it deserves, the reality for Cox could be a far cry from his negative aspirations.