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Bradford Cox sure has a way of breaking down the unspoken formality of a gig situation. Whether telling a ten minute story about what happened in a bookstore on the way to the show, trying to beg, buy or barter rare band t-shirts from audience members, joking about online piracy, or, as he does tonight, relaying breaking news of arrests from the Black Lips tour and dragging audience members onto the stage for (two) renditions of "happy birthday", Bradford's high-speed chat is something to look forward to in itself. He comes across as a pretty self aware, wired and witty guy, and it's easy to like him. There's a lot of the outsider icon about Bradford Cox, and it's inextricably tied into what makes Deerhunter quite so appealing.
But this comes two thirds into tonight's sold-out headline performance, after an uninterrupted 40-minute block of music from the Deerhunter back catalogue. From a light, ambient introduction, they burst into a floor-shaking 'Cryptograms'. Reverb piles up, forming loops that skate over the swathes of guitar. Deerhunter's self-styled "ambient punk" sound has never made more sense - the simple, chugging, basslines power along the cavalcade of resounding noise that falls from Bradford's fingers, via an imposing pedal rack. Bradford's voice is often reverse-reverbed, coming into focus through a thick mist of effects, and giving an odd out-of-time lip-sync effect.
'Nothing Ever Happened', from last year's acclaimed album Microcastles, is the centrepiece. It's a huge song, with various interlocking elements and equally catchy sub-sections piling into an extended outro and that jaw-dropping solo as the finale.
Deerhunter's swirling, enveloping roar is hypnotic and evocative. It operates on levels beyond what I normally expect to find in music. Inside the wall of sound that Deerhunter create, the tight little loops, echoes and repetitions form fractal patterns that dance around the mind and create a linger impression of something larger. All of that "shoegaze" echo and delay that some might treat as nothing more than a stylistic decision is here employed as an expression of the infinite. It's music the body and mind respond to instinctively, a direct kind of communication that bypasses critical faculties. This sound embeds itself on your mind like the midday sun does on your retina.
This band are the real fucking deal.
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