Next Friday (1/18/19) a new album from onetime psychedelic front runners Deerhunter is dropping. Titled Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, it will be their first since 2015’s Fading Frontier. We haven’t heard it. Nor have we listened to a single one of the advance tracks rolled out by 4AD. Nor have we read any of the too-quick-off-the-draw advance reviews or any such literature surrounding the singles or paid attention to any of the album hype that may or may not be currently circulating.
But we’re going to review it anyway.
And we will do it by utilizing a complex but fully tangible advanced algorithmic conglomonitization of separate terminofactored analytical substructured data gathered from over 1,915,491 sources of internalized micro intelligence over the course of 47 individual trial runs which resulted in a series of post-focused calculations nearly guaranteed to be accurate. We cannot be certain if this is the same method used by Pitchfork/Condé Nast when they review records without listening to them (which, according to our calculations, is roughly 23% of their reviews), but if the most trusted voice in music can get away with it, then certainly we, the least trusted voice in music, can absolutely get away with it.
So here we go.
After a tasty but short-lived noise-rock left turn on 2013’s Monomania, these former (still?) darlings of the music blogs returned to what made them semi-well known with Fading Frontier, taking the widescreen, gauzy psych of their initial string of mid-size-venue-ambitious LPs and slathering on several coats of fresh polish. With its click track synthetic drums and Korg washes, a song like “Living My Life” veered dangerous close to Mike & The Mechanics territory. So what will we get here with Disappeared? This is the longest these hunters of deer have gone between albums, which indicates they’ve really taken their time and fleshed it out. Will this be another accessible Frontier or a Mono-esque sideswipe into nasty rawk riffs?
It’s clear from the opening shimmering strums of the lead off title track that we’re getting neither option. That glossy “Saaayyyy it louddddddd, saaaayyyy it cleeeaaaarrrr” production is certainly still in the fullest of effect, but there’s a light and sunny slackified touch that we haven’t seen from the Deer Gang since early efforts like Microcastles. Slurring and shrugging his way through the choruses, Bradford Cox sounds at times like no less than Slack God Steven Malkmus in his golden couch prime. There isn’t much death going on in this midsummer, and this slouching, tuneful stunner is all the better for it.
After this 500-best-songs-of-2019-list opening statement, it’s as if the Hunters need some time to catch their collective breath. The next stretch of tracks present themselves in timid fashion, their hooks barely tapping upon your door, sort of hoping you might not be home. This is synth-tastic Halcyon territory, only minus the fleshed out melodies and earworm cascade choruses. “No One’s Sleeping” and “What Happens To People” are both quite pretty in presentation, but they may not make much of a lasting imprint on your synapses.The most interesting aspect going on here is a barely noticeable tip of a vague cap toward The Beatles which, though it points to some exciting possible future developments with this band, doesn’t do much for these structure-free and meandering, if pleasant and unoffensive, songs.
Things become infinitely more interesting once “Futurism” hits. It’s almost as if the Deers turned to one another in that rural Texas studio and said, “Ok, now we’ve met our dreamy mid-tempo quota. Let’s really go for it on the home stretch.” This sprawling, reaching borderline ballad feels like it’s on a mission to fill in every inch of space within its grasp with some sort of feedback shard or short little twist of melody, with Cox gliding just over the surface of the gurgling mess with a cracked, supremely stoned vocal he hasn’t utilized since some of the deep cuts on Hexograms. The brittle and bright “Tarnung” just might be the best thing here with its throwback keys and succession of near-hidden hooks that spring upon you like booby traps on repeated listens, and “Plains” could one day be used as Exhibit A for the beginning of this Brooklyn Steel indie collective’s eventual shift into jamband Brooklyn Bowl land. Closer “Nocturne” is simply gorgeous, a cracked and deeply isolated lullaby to nothingness that has a key scene film soundtrack slot encoded into its DNA somewhere.
“Nocturne” is the perfect bookend to a record that deftly sidesteps some of the blander aspects of their last effort by injecting well-balanced doses of their earlier eclecticism, sprinkling in some of that grit left over from the Monomania sessions, and introducing a new and fully welcomed sense of distant resolve to the mix, not to mention a few alien bursts of slacker sunshine, all the while keeping their cherished spacey atmospherics and taste for off kilter hooks firmly in place. Even on missteps like the well intentioned but grating “Détournement”, you have to hand it to Cox & Crew for trying on new masks this late in their stage show.
It may sag a bit on the front end, but this midsummer death is admirable for its eclecticism and deft range of influences. There can be no doubt that the suits at 4AD were most likely hoping for a National-level festival headliner breakthrough project from their Deerhunters, but what they got instead was cult band doing their thing for the pleasure of the converted, another building block in a long line of records that will one day make up a modestly stunning temple.
And it sounds nothing like Mike & The Mechanics.