Dan Deacon's second official UK album Bromst is a mischievous, soulful collection of spirituals and spasms, on which the Baltimore-based artist proves himself to be a master manipulator of base materials.
Starting gently, opener 'Build Voice' is all blissful, tripping vocal samples, tension building until finally immersing you with chorusing saxophones and hysterical beats. It begs your full engagement, and indicates that Deacon has gone for the 'throw enough and some sticks' approach in excelsis. About four minutes in you realise that this has actually built from total silence, a masterclass in craft and construction that would enliven any number of tired post-rock projects that claim restraint as their greatest virtue.
Deacon holds an MA in electro-acoustic composition, and the intro and outro to ‘Snookered’ are, at their cores, lighter and more melodic versions of any number of more difficult electronic manipulations that came out of Steve Reich’s tape looping phase. Lonesome but adhering to a beautiful melodic shape, those melodies are what stays with the listener, for all the hyperactivity that they bookend.
Thanks to the likes of Moby and the Coen Brothers, the spiritual has become a somewhat bastardised genre in the modern era. However, Deacon manages to remain on the side of tastefulness with ‘Wet Wings’. The ballsy move here is to stick neither to traditionalism or distasteful manipulation – the vocal motifs are roughshod and possibly from found material, assembled in a concrete style in a manner not dissimilar to a warmer take on Reich’s ‘Come Out’, gradually becoming less and less in sync with its repetitions. It ends with death drawing nearer in the lyric, something erased by the almost-inanely bouncy follow-up ‘Woof Woof’. Deacon peppers the whole of Bromst with these hilarious juxtapositions, allowing even the edgiest of beats and glitches to be undone with kitten sound effects.
To conclude that Bromst is a triumph of inventiveness is too easy. It is wildly inventive, but what impresses most is that for all the levity, Dan Deacon has managed to impressively rein in his flights of fancy. This is serious music that happens to contain jovial elements; more than sheer jollity, Deacon deals in immersion, subversion and the cool defiance of musical expectation. 'Intricate' doesn’t even begin to cover it. Bromst deserves to separate Deacon from 'classically trained' peers and earmark him as a wrangler of sonic energy and composer of real merit.
8Daniel Ross's Score