Dan Deacon may not be a name you’re yet familiar with, so let’s start by giving some context. To Deaconstruct (ahem) him if you will. It’s probably best to start with his live shows, a forum where most bands’ reputations live or die.
For Deacon there’s no such thing as a stage, there’s no barrier between artist and audience. Instead, his notoriously riotous gigs usually descend into mass dance-offs with Deacon orchestrating the madness from behind his set-up in the middle of the dancefloor.
But don’t let such ostentation create an image of pretentious folly, for Deacon dance music is a serious, almost scientific experiment, and having graduated with a degree in electro-acoustic and computer music composition, it’s his inert geekiness that shines through.
Deacon is also a brilliantly skewed pop star. Portly, prematurely balding and bespectacled, his image is based solely around the lack of image. Born in New York, his lack of cool makes him ultimately cooler then any band that has spewed out of Brooklyn in recent years, and with 2007’s Spiderman Of The Rings album he also had the music to support the anti-hype.
Whilst that album was a neon rush of synthesizers and heavily pitched vocals, Bromst replaces relative artifice with real instrumentation, which on the surface sounds very much like ‘growing up’, ie. getting boring. Luckily, ‘dull’ has been scribbled out of Deacon’s musical dictionary, the insane Red F being a case in point.
Over a catchy, relentless keyboard riff, beats bounce and rebound at a frantic pace, whilst the treated vocals reach a crescendo that sounds at one point like a chorus of Daleks. Then, after three and a half minutes of ratcheting up the drama, the noise suddenly drops to leave a percussive pitter-patter beat leaving you breathless.
A similar technique is used on Woof Woof, a song that veers seamlessly between jaunty dance-pop similar to The Go! Team and ear-splitting white noise, complete with garbled, backwards vocals that twitch and stutter in your ear. It’s not an album to listen to on particularly bad ‘cans’ on a busy train, nor is it one to enjoy if you’re feeling particularly fragile mentally.
Elsewhere, a modicum of calm descends on the eight minute Snookered, a delicate xylophone score opening proceedings before Pandora’s box is re-opened to reveal a heart-pounding rush of bleeps and squiggles. It’s when Deacon indulges this love of instruments you play using a mallet (ie. xylophones, glockenspiels, vibraphones) that things really take off, their percussive, earthy sounds coalescing with the electronics.
As with Four Tet at his best, the sound is both organic and synthetic, creating dance music that’s both visceral and cerebral. Similarly, it can also seem overly precious at times; the six-minute feedback of Slow With Horns/Run For Your Life could easily have been cut down to make a diverting interlude.
Minor grumbles aside, Bromst is a thrilling, hyperactive album that runs from calm and composed to frantic and frazzled, usually within the space of an intro. The majority of it sounds like machines imploding, or the perfect soundtrack to the inner workings of the mind of that guy from Darren Aronofsky’s Pi – but only if the film had been shot in neon.
Dan Deacon may not look the part in terms of conventional style or image, but he’s got the product if someone’s willing to do the PR.