Dan Deacon – America
America opens with a blast of distorted noise, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Dan Deacon’s playfulness has always been balanced with a certain harshness. Squealing synths dominated the high end while the low end kept things propulsive and danceable. If Dan Deacon’s music poked our nostalgic pleasure centers — reminding us of Kool-Aid soaked bean bags in front of afternoon cartoons — his music also brought to mind the ensuing sugar headache.
But on America the static and the squeals give way for precise percussion, orchestral winds and strings, and long vocal melodies. The harshness hangs back in the mix, allowing the listener to hear all those intricate rhythms, making good on his promise to bring classical minimalism and pop maximalism together. All the polyrhythms and marimbas bring to mind Steve Reich, while the opening of the epic, four-part “USA” sounds like a Koyaanisqatsi outtake.
Don’t be mistaken, though, Dan Deacon still marries seriousness with catchiness and pop pleasure. It all comes together best on “True Thrush.” The track starts with some micro-looping a la The Field, but then the song settles into something that sounds more like vintage Caribou. Then, like clouds parting for the sun, a big wordless melody comes floating over everything.
Seriousness suits Deacon, and surprisingly his aesthetic doesn’t have to change much to allow room for increased ambitions and emotional resonance. The digital mayhem sits nicely next to the orchestra and behaves itself. But you don’t have to, feel free to freak out.