utorak, 28. kolovoza 2012.

Dan Deacon - America

Dan Deacon - America

Suludo dobro. Deacon je postao "kompozitor". Drama se lomi dok automobil juri kroz nju.

I never felt American until I left the United States. In 2007 I went to Europe for the first time to tour in support of Spiderman of the Rings. At the time I, like many other young Americans, didn't identify as "American." The United States was an evil, Earth-destroying monster of war, corporate greed and bigotry. I had been touring for years in the DIY scene, trying to live apart from consumer culture, feeling detached from what I thought of as the American lifestyle. But when I left for Europe, I was slammed into reality. Never before had I felt so much like an outsider. I was alone in foreign lands with no friends. While it was a beautiful experience and a great tour, I realized that no matter which subculture I chose to identify or what kind of lifestyle I led I would always be American. Nothing could ever change that. As simple as that idea seems, it was a massive shift in consciousness for me.
When I was writing Bromst, I wanted a title with no pre-existing meaning, something free of any prior associations. For this album, I wanted the exact opposite. America is a word with an infinite range of connotations, both positive and negative. Even its literal definition is open to discussion. In using it as the title of the album, in a small way, I‘m contributing to the discussion. To me, the underground DIY and wilderness are just as American as their evil brethren, corporatism and environmental destruction. It‘s that juxtaposition of fundamentally opposed ideologies that makes up the American landscape.
 Compositionally, America is layering of dichotomies: light and dark, acoustic and synthetic, celebration and contemplation. The result can be heard as simple or complex depending on how one listens to it. The music is rooted in triadic harmony set to a fixed pulse while the individual lines are complex, phasing layers of sound. The outcomes are dense asymmetrically rhythmic phrases of textured patterns framed as pop songs. 
  The inspiration for the music was my love of cross-country travel, seeing the landscapes of the United States, going from east to west and back again over the course of seasons. The lyrics are inspired by my frustration, fear and anger towards the country and world I live in and am a part of. As I came closer to finishing the album these themes began to show themselves more frequently and greater clarity. There seemed no better world to encapsulate both inspirations than the simple beauty found in the word America.- Dan Deacon

I’ve always found it unfair to say that a certain artist is “depressing.”  Sure, the work might come from a depressed place but those songs will inevitably impart a whole range of emotions onto the listener.  Those that understand the artist’s plight might feel comforted.  Others will likely find something beautiful in the way the stories are told.  However, that frilly analysis I have just made goes right out the window whenever I listen to Dan Deacon.  His opuses of celebration make me think “damn, why have I spent so much time listening to a bunch of sad sacks lightly strum their guitars.”  Eventually that feeling subsides, but for the time that I am locked into Deacon’s exuberant world I am reviled by the thought of listening to an Elliot Smith song.  Such is the draw of Deacon’s primal energy – an energy that defined his first major release, Spiderman of the Rings, and has since become one aspect of an increasingly refined artist.
For anyone that has seen his live show, refined might seem like the wrong word for Dan Deacon.  His concerts are deafening, fascinating, life-affirming explosions of energy.  He attempts to involve everyone in the process (sometimes by coercion) and one can’t help but give in to the joy of the mob.  However, this live persona may not be an exact reflection of who Deacon is.  Here is what he said in a recent interview: “After I started playing larger shows, I noticed people were coming fucked up, like, on ecstasy.  It made me feel like shit that I was enabling this culture that I wanted nothing to do with.”  Later in the interview he is asked if he has matured at all since the release of Spiderman and he says “I would fucking hope so.”  Deacon has turned away from the party-in-an-abandoned-building atmosphere that shaped his earlier work and is now focusing more directly on his craft.  Embracing his training in classical music, Deacon has recently composed music for symphonies, committed to scoring a Francis Ford Coppola film, and, of course, made America, his most accomplished album yet.
America can effectively be split into its first half, which is more pop-oriented tracks, and its second half, a sprawling four part series entitled USA.  Some might question whether the two parts make for a coherent album.  To answer that, it is best to examine each half on its own and then look at whether they belong on the same release.  The first five tracks on America are a return to the wonderful world that was last revealed to us by Bromst.  Heavily modulated synths and pummeling drum rhythms give way to intricately laced arpeggios and unexpected serenity.  Deacon’s arrangements can stop on a dime and morph into something completely new and enticing.  Take “Guillford Avenue Bridge,” the first song on the record.  It only takes about thirty seconds of dissonant screeching before the drums (now engineered to sound distinctly live) usher in the sonic onslaught.  Layers of synths wash over one another, barreling into oblivion; however, no sooner than the mayhem begins is it interrupted by a hypnotic, rhythmically-complex interlude.  This delicate soundscape slowly edges toward a moment of bliss just before it careens gloriously back into an explosive wall of sound.  And things only get more interesting from there.
“True Thrush” keeps the tradition of every Dan Deacon record, whereby one song in particular is just impossibly catchy.  Bromst had “Snookered” and Spiders had “Wham City.”  “True Thrush” might not be “Wham City” caliber but it is undeniably infectious.  A bubbly bass line grounds a chorus of wispy keys, hand claps, and dreamlike vocals.  The track is another example of how Deacon is adept at masking strong fundamental melodies with a sense of haphazardness.  With all of its disparate elements the track could easily be a shambles but it is wound around a taut melodic core that keeps everything aimed in the right direction.  This is true of all the first three songs, which collectively form a trio of blistering party tunes.  These tracks, along with “Crash Jam,” are the kind of twisted, joyous pop tunes that makes Deacon so beloved; but it is the tone set by “Prettyboy” and the latter half of the album that ultimately sets America apart.
USA heavily incorporates drums and synths but it is orchestral in nature.  Acoustic instruments are central to the tone of the piece and segments repeat each other during different movements as they would in a classical work.  However, USA is first and foremost a Dan Deacon creation.  It doesn’t get bogged down by trying to be overly traditional; instead, USA takes the compelling elements of orchestral composition (e.g. building on a central theme, plotting the interaction of every instrument) and transports them into Deacon’s world of drones and celebration.  Part I, entitled “Is a Monster,” opens with a string arrangement that slowly builds over the course of a minute.  The strings then drop out entirely and a grating synth takes their place.  Deacon’s voice hovers celestially in the background.  Layers of sound pound on top of one another eventually surging toward a crescendo.  Then the layers peel away.  The initial string arrangement is reprised along with squeaky synth modulation and a primal drum beat.  It makes for an epic moment, and it is one that returns in even grander fashion at the end of “Manifest.”
Deacon has said that USA is meant to reflect the experience of traveling through America.  That quiet journey that shows the cities along with the forgotten places, the striking mountains along with the empty fields.  The four parts of the series have an overlapping foundation but they also are a study in change.  “The Great American Desert” is chaotic and diverse while “Rail,” with its entirely acoustic composition, evokes a more serene landscape.  The shift from “Rail” to “Manifest,” in particular, seems to capture the fundamental beauty that Deacon finds in America.  One can be alone on a train watching the land unfold when the destination starts to come into view.  The end of “Rail” captures that energy and “Manifest” revolves around that peculiar urban experience one has once the train has moved on. Like Deacon says, it is “like when the city you’ve seen growing in the distance is finally there.”  I find it refreshing that an outspoken artist who is critical of his country can also be forthright about the fact that there are beautiful things about America, even if those things are sometimes hard to find.
One might ask why Deacon decided to combine USA with his more pop-oriented work.  On paper it is a fair question; but after a week with the album the disconnect between the two sections becomes obsolete.  USA does exactly what the rest of America does, but it does it on a larger scale.  The arrangements are built to create moments of bliss, tension, confusion, and release.  The rhythms and synth lines are intricately crafted and seamlessly engineered.  Deacon’s voice swirls through the instruments like a ghost that is still holding onto his optimism.  And, ultimately, all of America is a full-throated embrace of life, and whatever that life may hold.  America is not as joyous as Spiderman of the Rings or as eclectic as Bromst, but it is ultimately more affecting; and it seems to be most accurate reflection yet of who Dan Deacon really is. - drewmalmuth

Dan Deacon’s breakout 2007 record referenced comic superheroes and The Lord Of The Rings, made an entire song of Woody Woodpecker’s laugh, and contained such schoolyard boasts as “My dad is so cool … he would pick you up if I asked him to.” The 2009 follow-up Bromst was less whimsical, but the bold America is a jarring leap in maturity and ambition. The album’s broad title isn’t silly or facetious; tackling his theme in earnest, Deacon has created a record that mirrors its subject—vast, varied, and marked equally by beauty and turmoil. It’s not only a statement that Deacon is to be respected as a serious artist, but also one of the more thoughtful and complex albums so far this year.
Expanding on recent experiences in classical composition and film scores, Deacon’s stylistic focus is the fusion of electronic effects and acoustic instrumentation within the repetitious song structures that have defined his work. Warped synths and hammering drums swirl in patterned loops, frequently joined by woodwinds, brass, piano, and strings, both amplifying and tempering the aural chaos. On the record’s second half—a sprawling four-song, 21-minute suite titled “USA”—a chamber ensemble adds emotional drama to the noise, striking a fragile balance between energy and elegance. There’s a point to the contrast, as America encompasses both what Deacon does and does not like about his country. Much of the album gushes in celebration of our scenic grandeur: His songs are car windows through which towering mountains, endless plains, and spacious desert race past.
But these moments of patriotism rest uneasily alongside dark expressions of disillusionment and anger, often as direct commentary on American culture and attitudes. Deacon conveys this bitterness through aggressive tracks such as “Lots,” which surges with danceable clamor and frenetic dissonance, while the eclectic “True Thrush” punctures a brightly pulsing beat, surging bassline, and airy chant with caustic lyrics (“With the lies you’ve been sold / let the nightmare unfold” along with a robotic recitation of “We don’t own the world”). Yet America ultimately embraces splendor and nobility, even as it acknowledges personal and social anxiety. Not bad for a guy who used to flail around in cartoon-character T-shirts and glasses made of tape. - Chris Mincher

There's something about the phrase "electro-acoustic composer" that makes you want to beat arts festival programme-writers about the ears with a heavy piece of sound sculpture. But an electro-acoustic composer is what Dan Deacon is, for lack of a more immediate term.
This guy from Baltimore in big owl glasses used to employ mostly electronic equipment for his experimental synthetic compositions that veered, occasionally, into dodgy comedy. He has since moved into writing for orchestras, recently soundtracked a Francis Ford Coppola film (Twixt, 2011), and has now made a record – his eighth, all told – that seriously rocks. A study in hopeful euphoria, America also comes with that most highfalutin of things – an artist's statement, full of talk about "layering dichotomies". Don't let that put you off.
Envisioned as two halves, America is a full-on ecstatic romp with machines and "real" instruments through the American landscape. Uncannily, Guilford Avenue Bridge starts ever so faintly like a more avant-garde take on the Pistols' Anarchy in the UK, before taking a surprise detour into modal bluegrass. Then it fades into a fuzz-laden percussive workout that makes you want to punch the air with glee.
With its driving beats, over-saturation, distortion and shifting euphorics, America openly welcomes fans of Animal Collective but recalls the loving, lysergic twinkle of the Flaming Lips, and even the sunny sense of manifest destiny that drove Brian Wilson. Much of it references the evolving structures of Steve Reich. True Thrush is the hand held out to neophytes – a beatific, surging piece of pop. You can take or leave the cutesy video.
Deacon's heavy joy isn't merely simplistic, however. He played Carnegie Hall in March, then a few weeks later led some interpretive dancing at an Occupy Wall Street rally. In his artist's statement Deacon makes the point that touring in Europe for the first time made him feel truly American, despite being the sort of American who habitually eschews the corporatism and apple pie. He's part of Baltimore's Wham City arts collective and is a firm believer in mass action, musical or public. Instead of responding to the American economic crisis by turning out explicitly political songs – the approach of Bruce Springsteen and the forthcoming album by Ry Cooder – Deacon has co-opted the surges of the dancefloor, of sped-up motorik beats, of punkoid experimental music to soundtrack his view of the prairies and canyons and his sense of bleary hope.
This is not a difficult album to get; certainly, the first half is an easy listen. Connoisseurs of percussive pummelling (or fans of Japanese drum-orgyists Boredoms) will find plenty here to unleash their endorphins. The second half grows slightly more serious with a string-laden suite of songs called things such as USA I: Is a Monster. By the time you're at the mantric, tribal-psych climax of USA IV: Manifest, and some muted brass and strings turn up at the rave, you are putty in his hands. A musical reaction to strife and scandal that comes from a quarter where pretension often trumps fun, America is that unlikeliest of things: a feelgood summer album.  - Kitty Empire

As the career path of Dan Deacon progresses, it gets easier and easier to use words like “mature,” “serious,” and “orchestral.” The days of 2006′s “Drinking Out of Cups” seem to be the product of an entirely different person, or perhaps just a recorded experiment from the teenage years of a newly minted composer. With his latest record, one has to wonder: Was Deacon just messing around with pop music while secretly writing string section parts for an album that encompasses an entire nation, or did he stumble upon classical songwriting while coming up with dayglo nonsense (“We’re talking paper forks now!”) to play on the news at six in the morning? With Bromst, critics and fans alike began to see that Deacon’s genius went beyond insane pop; and with America, those depths begin to be plumbed.
The biggest difference between Deacon’s new LP and his first forays into the public eye is that now he seemingly can’t be contained by traditional pop song structures. There were flashes of expansive meditation as far back as “Woody Woodpecker”, but then demand came for the dance floor show jams. On his second album, the instrumentation shift began with manipulated player piano washes and the like. But even then, it’d be difficult to be prepared for a four-part suite like “U.S.A.”. The tracks may be separated, but the seamless transitions and unified scope result in the most grandiose music that Deacon has ever produced.
The first half of the album, while perhaps not as epic as “U.S.A.”, is still large. The churning, twinkly landscape blurring outside of the neon-edged car window in “True Thrush” is the next logical step past “Snookered”. The pitch-shifted harmony vocals and the twisted vocal counterpoint are trademark early Deacon, and the humming buildup from layer to layer entrances. “Lots” crushes in its dense noise, a vocal hook adrift in a sea of rough-hewn jigsaw synths. That density may be the key to the issues that Deacon has with America, the dark undercurrent that runs throughout the album. After spending time visiting Occupy movements and touring throughout lonely stretches populated by fast-food chains, he seems ready to hold up a mirror.
These aren’t split personalities, but two palettes used on the same canvas. The chugging marimba that unify “USA II: The Great American Desert” and “USA III: Rail” and the grating synth multitudes of “Guilford Avenue Bridge” meet throughout the album, rushing at each other and connecting like magnets. The lyrical themes show Deacon’s maturity and also link the two halves of the album. When he sings about “only the earth and the mountains” living long on “USA I: Is a Monster” (named after the similarly cynical defunct noise band USAISAMONSTER) and goes on to wonder about the potential of roaming the vastness of a dying country, he’s explaining his newly grand, epic vision, justifying his adjusted worldview.
The cinematic clarinet and strings of “Prettyboy” suggest that Deacon is more than ready to start that soundtracking work we’ve all heard about. Similarly, “USA III: Rail” finds the Wham City weirdo standing in front of an orchestra, commanding it like a conservatory maestro, and coming away with something awe-inspiring. The marimba flutters along at the bottom, like a river cutting across the open string fields, soaring trumpets swarming like  eagles. There is nothing of Twacky Cats within several miles of a track like this, and “Lion with a Shark’s Head” sounds like child’s play in comparison.
The fact remains essential, though, that the same artist who produced this expansive album also did Spiderman of the Rings. Just as Deacon’s Technicolored view of the United States incorporates both an epic orchestra and square-wave synths, Dan Deacon is both the party starter of “Trippy Green Skull” and deft composer of America. He’s always had big, post-everything ideas after all, as on the square-drone of “My Own Face Is F-Word”. After taking in an album like this, there’s no remaining uncertainty about how he got here. There should only be reveling in the achievement, the artistic growth, and the pleasure of the experience. This is a sonic representation of the grandeur of America as it stands, a classically inspired composition built with all the tools available. - Adam Kivel

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