Album Reviews

Deerhunter – Microcastle

(4AD) UK release date: 27 October 2008


Deerhunter - MicrocastleMost people recognise the power of a name that fits well. One should not be surprised at the powerful grinding sounds of a band called Fuck Buttons, nor should one be quite taken aback when Casiotone For The Painfully Alone sounds a wee bit emotional.

But Deerhunter are more subdued than their name suggests. For example, instead of enjoying the great outdoors, the narrator of Agoraphobia would rather spend his time in a prison cell. When you make it to the penultimate track, Neither Of Us, Uncertainly, you’ll realise that the song’s title aptly captures the spirit of Microcastle: Deerhunter are not, as their name suggest, epic warriors on the killing fields, rather they are young meek people, awkwardly shuffling past, trying to grasp at some bit of truth before it slowly, inevitably floats away.

After a few listens, Microcastle might take hold in your mind as an indie concerto. Broken into thirds, the album draws you in with some light pop fare before spilling its guts to you in a slow, dramatic middle section. But just when it seems the dark will only get darker, Nothing Ever Happened kicks in with a throbbing beat and pushes you through the last energetic stretch of the album.

But back to the beginning – although Agoraphobia sounds depressing on paper, it turns out to be quite buoyant in the hands of Deerhunter. The upbeat song introduces the album proper after the introductory instrumental, Cover Me (Slowly), grinds to a halt, and it is this sort of tug and pull construction that gives Microcastle some lasting power. Not convinced yet? Later on, the title track sloshes by with singer Bradford Cox barely able to push the words out in time, but just when you think you’re safe in feeling gloomy, the drums come in and nail it into your skull: suffer through it and everything will come out fine.

Deerhunter’s power doesn’t lie in their ability to create fast and slow songs and to put them next to each other in succession. Dynamic flourishes are one of the hardest things to pull off as a band without making it sound cheesy, and Deerhunter are able to give life to each of their crescendos, to give inspiration to each of their fading notes.

The sounds on Microcastle form a lush landscape. Ethereal voices blend into battered guitars and a determined rhythm section. Tagged as an experimental rock group, that abysmal chasm of classifications, Deerhunter lean more towards the ear-to-ear panorama of My Bloody Valentine than the warbled squawks of Lightning Bolt or the intense jabs of Deerhoof. Deerhunter, however, manage to steal a portion of each of those groups, using them to cook up a new recipe of indie experimental delight.


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