Dan Deacon – Bromst (Carpark)
Bromst is a mischievous, soulful work that manages to sit in one generic camp throughout without becoming tedious or even getting close to repetition. True enough, there are a great many repeated phrases and musical motifs, but they’re dressed in such a way as to mask the whole process. It’s like sitting on the floor, gazing at every aspect of the same corniced ceiling. From spirituals to corroded spasms, Dan Deacon proves himself to be a master manipulator of base materials.
Gently waking, opener Build Voice is blissful, tripping vocal samples and, after some needed tension-building, is absolutely immersive with chorusing saxophones and hysterical beats. It requires nothing less than full engagement to appreciate fully, and indicates that Deacon has gone for the “throw enough and some sticks” approach in excelsis. At about four minutes in you realise that this has actually built from silence – a masterclass in craft and construction that would enliven any number of tired post-rock projects that claim restraint to be their greatest virtue.
There are several artists who work in the independent community and bill themselves (or are billed by others) as having been classically trained. This can produce the most varied of musical results: compare Deacon with the likes of David Karsten Daniels or Johann Johannsson, for example. Many of these artists are united by their adherence to the rules and ideals of minimalism as pioneered by Stockhausen, Reich and Reilly, but Deacon unites only with himself alone by being one of the truer embodiments of Stockhausen’s legacy working in popular music. The intro and outro to Snookered are, at their core, a lighter and more melodic version of any number of more difficult electronic manipulations that came out of Reich’s tape looping phase. Lonesome but adhering to a beautiful melodic shape, those melodies are what stays with the listener, even after the extreme hyperactivity that they bookend.
The spiritual is a bastardised genre in the modern era (by, with varying degrees of worthiness, Moby and The Coen Brothers among others), and Deacon manages to remain on the side of tastefulness with Wet Wings. If he’d actually written a spiritual in the Deep South tradition then by crikey, wouldn’t we all label him as having missed the bandwagon? The ballsy move here is to stick neither to traditionalism or distasteful manipulation – the vocal motifs are roughshod and possibly from found material, assembled in a concrète style in a matter not dissimilar from Steve Reich’s ‘Come Out’, gradually becoming less and less in synch with its repetitions, but is wholly warmer in tone. It ends with death drawing nearer in the lyric, but it is almost erased by the almost-inanely bouncy follow-up of Woof Woof. Deacon peppers the whole of Bromst with these hilarious juxtapositions, allowing even the edgiest and glitchiest beats to be undone with kitten sound effects.
To conclude that Bromst is wildly inventive is too easy. It is wildly inventive, but what impresses most is that Dan Deacon has managed to reign in any ridiculous flights of fancy. This is serious music that happens to contain jovial elements, scherzos among the expositions and recapitulations, if you will. More than sheer jollity, Deacon deals in immersion, subversion and the cool defiance of musical expectation. ‘Intricate’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Bromst deserves to separate Deacon from ‘classically trained’ peers and earmark him as a wrangler of sonic energy and composer of real merit.