Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Deep within the confines of the vast, mysterious internet, news of a certain album emerged. Following the leak debacle of the last release, Bradford Cox and Co. took a more ambiguous approach to releasing a record. The Atlanta based quartet known for their post-punk, shoe gaze roots and enthralling live shows have been relatively quiet since the fantastic Microcastle and pre-release fiasco. The only news we heard even related to Deerhunter was a small tour with untitled new material. This tour debuted while much more press attention was paid to Bradford Cox’s solo outfit Atlas Sound, with its 2009 release of Logos and subsequent tour. Grumblings here and there and a subversive marketing strategy soon after allowed us to put the pieces together and alas we find ourselves in the midst of another gem of a record, Halcyon Digest released via 4AD.

On the opening track ‘Earthquake’, Deerhunter takes a slow, steady approach in reintroducing themselves to the listener. At once, we find ourselves in the middle of an alien, yet unmistakably familiar soundscape. Like the spider and the fly, Cox has a way of pulling the listener in with his swan-song voice while slowly sucking the life out his prey with the rhythm. Though this process is not a violent one; it’s a beautiful dance where Deerhunter spin their web, all senses at once pulsate before it seems like it’s too much. The tapping of a foot turns to muscle memory and we can barely hear the world around us. Rise and fall, these moments erase from existence and what are left are Cox, Pundt, Fauver, Archuleta , and their stunning torturing devices only to open us up and let them in. There’s no way to resist, as our grey matter is their lunch.

On Cryptograms, the band went through a rough stretch and this era brought out a more disjointed song structure while producing some of the group’s most complex ambient elements thanks to Lockett Pundt’s silky-smooth approach. With Microcastle, Cox and Co. reformed with a new purpose and the while the ramblings of previous times are more or less gone, a stronger comprehensive album composition emerged, though the group can’t quite reach that same level at present. There are elements of both sides to the story on display here with ‘Basement Scene’ and ‘Revival’, respectively. This shows that the band is aware of their roots and is willing to not hide their past while searching for perfection. Obviously they are on the right track and even find a new lighter style as heard on ‘Desire Lines’, a definite highlight on the record.

“The devil is now gone from me” croons Bradford Cox on the near perfect track ‘Helicopter’, but I don’t believe him. It’s evil how seamlessly he can create touching and soft, yet unreasonably haunting lyrics. It’s straight up sinful how he can pair these lyrics to the music with such reason and perfection. The tone changes and compositions on this track alone are catching the eye and ears of everyone far beyond the indie community.

With Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter have found themselves as comfortable in their own sound and skin as never before and we can hear this stability in the record as a whole. The vast waves of psychedelia contrasting with the subtle nuances Cox is growing to become well known for are everywhere to be heard. Hipster communities will wine and cry about it, but they’re going to need to find a new band to love, as Deerhunter is soon to become mainstream news. This album has solidified them in the driver’s seat in the indie genre (perhaps even more) and there’s no hope of commandeering the wheel. They are on a road, destination unknown, and you might as well jump in the back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/08-Helicopter.mp3]

Download: Deerhunter – Helicopter [MP3]

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