Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Deerhunter – ‘Halcyon Digest’ (4AD)

Deerhunter are a band full of surprises. Right from when I first listened to Cryptograms three years ago I was enthralled by the haziness and intensity of their Lo-fi, shoegazey punk-rock tones. 2008 saw the release of Microcastles, which Bradford Cox took in the direction of a cleaner but equally intensified sound. And of course people seem to leave out their debut LP Turn It Up Faggot, a record I only checked out after I heard the previous two. Although not their most complete and accomplished record (hey, Cox would be the first person to admit that) it still provided a raw, sludgy sound that was unlike anything the Atlanta, Georgia four piece had done since. So as you would expect, the anticipation towards their latest masterpiece has been growing ever since the announcement and promotion details of their fourth LP, Halcyon Digest.

It’s not often a group can consistently keep going from strength to strength. Yet, somehow this is what Deerhunter have managed to accomplish. Halcyon Digest follows on from where last year’s disappointing Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP left off, but to much much greater avail. The record is a progression. Opening up with ‘Earthquake’ which is a sombre introduction with a slow drum and hi-hat beat building into a 5 minute layering of guitar loops, softly sung vocals and their trademark atmospheric dream sounds. ‘Sailing’ is a further example of how they have mellowed and matured from their earlier releases. The luscious, hypnotic layers almost set you off before it launches into the pure 1960’s pop ala Beach Boys influence of ‘Memory Boy’. This then leads well to the albums centre piece and standout track, ‘Desire Lines’. The intro kind of starts a bit like The Arcade Fire’s ‘Memories (Lies)’ but builds into a near 7 minute Psych gem. Everything about this track is just stunning. From Lockett Pundt’s jangly guitars, the through bass line and the jump from verse to bridge/chorus, to how halfway through the epic guitar outro begins and it gives you the feeling that you just don’t want it to stop until it sadly fades out.

So that’s the halfway point of Halcyon Digest. The second half doesn’t fail to deliver like the first. We have cuts like ‘Helicopter’ which is as radio-friendly as Deerhunter can get in regards to song structure, despite being probably the most pedal-led track on the album, at least in the chorus anyway. But for me, another highlight is penultimate track ‘Coronado’. Providing an uplifting experience that is quite a rare occurrence on a Deerhunter track, helped largely by the continuous use of Saxophone performed by Bill Oglesby, as well as Moses Archeleta’s drum filled beats and Cox’s uplifting melody.

The album climaxes with the two part 7 and a half minute ‘He Would Have Laughed’. The synth strings on it are a fitting touch to end what is truly a gorgeous album. The song ends abruptly leaving the listener wanting more, which can only mean we’ll have to keep coming back to this album again and again.

Words: Freddy Rothman

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