There's a scene in director Alfonso Cuaron's 2006 sci-fi thriller, Children of Men, where music plays a key role in the film's secondary agenda - forecasting the future. Foul blasts of broken robot noise spill from the screen as actor Michael Caine dances a jig we've never seen. It's a noble effort by Cuaron, Caine and whoever programmed up the awful sounds, but let's leave the musical predictions to the musicians. Dan Deacon's second album to see major distribution, Bromst, whether it means to or not, does a better job at predicting the future of pop music.
Beginning with a hushed ambiance that slowly builds into what functions as an introduction, Bromst gives the listener a final moment of peace before the aptly-titled opener, "Build Voice," really revs up. An arrangement of vocal loops, piano, digital beats, horns and rolling keyboards create a song that feels more like a rethinking of classical composition than it does electro-pop. No real strings being stroked with bows; plenty of programming and loops. The song, like most of Deacon's material, would fit well if played between cuts from LCD Soundsystem and the Animal Collective - good company. The general vibe here is electronic pop, though maybe the most anything-goes version of said genre you'll find in the U.S. It's a somewhat brutal sound, just as the music in Children of Men was.
While 2007's Spiderman of the Rings, Deacon's first major release, was maybe a tad too silly to be taken as the grand artistic statement it was so often written up to be, Bromst settles back a bit, expanding on Spiderman's style while tightening the screws. Each song, including the record's shortest composition - the three-minute "Wet Wings" - here feels epic, almost exhausting. By the time track three, "Paddling Ghost," ends you might need a break - it feels almost as if Deacon has thrown the whole world at you. The whole world, backed by somewhat organic drum programming, electro-fuzz, loads of vocal effects, endless keyboards and solid production. It's the kind of solid, hard-labored work that even a late-70s Brian Eno would be impressed by. It's the kind of work only a pop culture junkie with extensive college-level composition studies under his/her credit could accomplish.
The only real question remaining is whether or not Deacon ever intends to make music that can be taken seriously by the heard-it-all set. (Is he maybe just a step or two too far ahead of his time, or will his snazzy style always feel a little too youthful, playful and, well, forward looking?) Should he buckle down even more, or would doing so take away the magic? Songs like "Snookered" and "On the Mountains" suggest that Deacon is capable of making the kind of forward thinking proto-prog Radiohead has made ... but do we really need another Radiohead? Does "serious music," even when of the futuristic breed, need to be self serious and joyless in order to be effective? Something tells me Deacon will answer these questions in no time at all.
Until then, we have Bromst, one of the very few recent records this writer would consider filing under "genius." It's an extreme collection of sound that wont fit your every mood, surely, but one that will stand the test of time due to its sweeping imagination. Deacon is not so much predicting the future as he is influencing it - a rare feat indeed.