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2009 release from the Electronica artist. Fusing the growing intensity of his live performances with his background in Electro-acoustic composition, the result is a collection of pieces that are intense and epic, and at the same time, down to earth and welcoming. Unlike the completely electronic Spiderman Of The Rings, the instrumentation on Bromst is a mixture of acoustic and mechanical instruments, samples, and electronics. The intricate and complex parts are woven together into a rich, dense, and noisy Dance Pop that has become Deacon's signature sound.
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But at its best (Build Voice, Wet Wings, Woof Woof, Slow with Horns), it's nearly as brilliant as any of the music I love. In fact, in its finest moments, I'm reminded of one of my favorite bands, Sigur Ros. Not in style, obviously, but in the grandeur and complexity of the music.
Maybe not quite a classic, but still a really, really great album to listen to in the car on a bright summer day.
As an ethereal loop of the human voice builds in the beginning of the first song, "Build Voice," one may get the wrong impression of what is to follow. But, as parts enter--vocals, keyboards, synthesized horns, and a single snare--the song begins to evolve in complexity; at the three minute mark, a very fast drum loop enters to remind the listener that he or she is listening to Deacon. The melodies in the song are intriguing, but what makes this piece and the rest of the album unique and brilliant is what else is going on--there are at least other five distinguishable parts, a blend of vocals, synthesizers, and drums. And this is just the beginning.
One of the unique aspects of Deacon's work is his use of rather harsh sounds. For instance, the second track on the album, "Red F" starts rather blaringly with what sounds like a broken or dislodged speaker cable--a distorted and droning noise which would usually be stopped immediately if encountered in everyday life. Instead, Deacon has built a song around this sound, utilizing the droning nature of it as an anchoring bass line. Beneath layered keyboards, drum loops, and distorted vocals, the sound fits perfectly into the piece. A similar concept, utilizing a very low-fi distorted and droning bass line is used throughout the album; as in "Red F," it provides some stability in the otherwise layered, hectic tracks.
Two other Deacon signatures are used throughout the album as well: pitch-shifted vocals and melodic, synthesized arpeggio lines. Deacon's use of pitch-shifted vocals are exemplified in "Baltihorse." Layered, distorted vocal lines are pitch-shifted up so they sound more like they are sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks than a thirty year old man, but overtop of the rapid xylophone-like synthesizer and a driving snare drum the song is clearly the work of Deacon. These vocals are also often shouted, making them quite unique as they fit into each piece. The vocals are also interwoven into each piece, instead of being decibels above all else; as a result, the digitized vocals act more like another synthesizer layer than vocal lines in a radio-friendly pop song. The last track on the album, "Get Older," exemplifies not only digitized vocals but also Deacon's use of synthesized arpeggios. At the one minute mark, a repetitive arpeggio loop enters to establish a melodic line which is the foundation for the rest of the piece. Though it fades in and out under different layers in the piece, the arpeggios are present in the majority of six minute song.
Among the tracks in Dan Deacon's signature style, there are gems which differ in both style and instrument usage. The almost eight minute epic "Surprise Stefani," for instance, relies much less on distorted layers and digitized vocals and much more on swells of single sounds. The piece begins with swells similar to that of early electronic music, such as that by Vladimir Ussachevsky. As the piece evolves, seemingly nonsense vocals lines complicate the piece without overpowering it or shifting the mood. This more complicated middle section lasts about two minutes before fading back to swells of synthesized pitches. At the six minute mark, the piece once again evolves as Deacon's utilizes a rhythmic xylophone-section; the section ultimately ends the piece as other sounds are faded out to only leave a repetitive but beautiful xylophone part.
"Wet Wings," the track following, also differs greatly from stereotypical Deacon. With layered female vocal lines, the call-and-response style of the piece somewhat resembles a traditional work song. It is beautiful and wonderful, but it is far from the distorted synthesizers and drum machines which have made Deacon famous. The song acts as a break before Deacon's signature style enters in full force in the next track, "Woof Woof," which once again overwhelms the listener in the uniquely Deacon style.
With an hour of music spanning eleven tracks, Deacon's Bromst is undoubtedly an epic work. With the onslaught of synthesizers and drum loops, listening to the album in one sitting feels like a marathon at times. It is overwhelming and yet the listener wants nothing more than to keep going, and that is exactly what makes Deacon's Bromst and the rest of his work so amazing.
Listen to a sample before purchasing. It can be a bit much for someone who is only slightly into borderline obscure organized chaos. ...and oh yeah, I've heard the live shows are interactive and extraordinarily fun. bonus!!
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.
There are a couple of curious choices that dull the album enough to knock off a star, including odd chipmunk vocals and one track that totally flops for me: Wet Wings. I get what he was going for with the repeated vocal being mashed over itself over and over, but frankly, it sounds like something that belongs on a noise album and is out of place here. If he'd put in any sort of backing track, or really added anything actively musical into the track, it would probably have been much better.
All said, an excellent album and well worth listening if you're into indie or electronic music.