Deacon’s newest album pushes musical boundaries

By Robby Cassidy

Contributing Writer

Dan Deacon is a freak of nature. The first track on Spiderman of the Rings, his last album and Bromst’s predecessor, was entitled “Wooody Woodpecker,” (purposely misspelled), and consisted of samples of the titular cartoon bird’s legendary laugh modulated into absurdity accompanied by mallet percussion and synths galore. After a barrage of bass drum and cymbal crashes, it becomes a maelstrom of distortion intensified by otherworldly speed. The song is completely maddening. It also happens to be worth every single second. This is the world of Dan Deacon.

Bromst is a much different record from a much different Dan Deacon. Spiderman was recorded and mastered in two weeks. Bromst was recorded and mastered over months at Snow Ghost, a studio located in Montana. This is the opus of a madman, who, at 29, has recorded the album that many musicians wait their entire lives to record and that most never do.

The album starts off so quietly it’s almost impossible to properly prepare for. Adjusting the volume to catch the first seconds of “Build Voice” is a delightfully disastrous mistake unless your ears and speakers are ready for, and can handle, the punishment. Deacon gives plenty of time to prepare, but it’s incredibly easy to end up in the last minute with no recollection of how the song has become so amazingly loud.

Deacon is in complete control, sneaking in flurries of player piano (which was utilized after the piano parts written were deemed to be unplayable by human hands) and horns that swirl around each other in almost complete rhythmic impossibility.

“Red F” starts with a sine wave generator. The resulting buzzsaw drone pushes palpability to its limit until collision-course drums and a right-to-left panned organ sound push it further, eventually saved by a playful synth line and obscured vocals.

All this effort, though, is eventually crushed by a freak-out of sound and normalized with heavy vocoder action and a chorus, further bolstering this redemption only to be razed and built back up again. Rinse, lather, repeat.

“Paddling Ghost” pushes further into Deacon’s mad house. More polished and modulated vocals appear, but this time finally letting loose and introducing his notorious Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-drenched-in-lysergic-acid approach to vocal obstruction and also introducing the chopped vocal sample greatness that occupies the rest of the album.

There’s a fair amount of hesitation when it comes to calling “Snookered” the high point. Yes, this is the high point, but it’s being compared to a series of other unreachable peaks. The song shows that reality and sobriety do exist in this cartoon world.

The vocals are sent through a mile-long gauntlet of razors, reemerging unrecognizable from under the sea of synthesizers. Don’t worry, though. It’s not done yet. More synths are accompanied by mallet percussion as they reintroduce themselves to the controlled chaos.

A mix of the remnants from the sonic fracas that disintegrated at the end of “Snookered,” “Of the Mountains” keeps the energy high and comes into its own with a chorus that seems slow for Dan Deacon.

“Surprise Stefani” is the fantastic beginning of the more experimental and diverse second half of the album. This is the best chance to kick back and enjoy some smooth edges, but don’t get too comfortable. There’s no real rest in DeaconLand. Spliced vocal samples, combined with “oohs” and “ahhs,” provide the melody. If not elated, check pulse.

“Woof Woof” sounds like a polished holdout from Spiderman and provides the most straight-forward fun of any track on the album. It’s literally raining cats and dogs, who battle it out over rigid synth bass.

Hope the sugar high’s still present because next comes thick synthesizers, burning up all the oxygen in the immediate vicinity during “Slow with Horns/Run For Your Life.” By the time the lone piano chords arrive, the party’s been busted. The player piano makes up for this and almost erases all memory of the daintiness of the ivory keys.

Finally, “Get Older” closes out the album. With an indecisive synthesizer leading the pack, drums kick in followed by more mallets and even more synth organs. Then every instrument erupts, taking turns slamming into each other before becoming one beautifully violent flurry.