Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD) 27/09/2010

October 19, 2010 by  

The self-proclaimed “ambient punks” from Atlanta, Georgia have taken a bold step forward into a more mature sound on their fourth full length exploration, “Halcyon Digest”, which has been produced by Ben Allen (Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavillion). Deerhunter are still a young band, but their music is presented in a warm wave of deep nostalgia which leaves you with the impression that they’ve been going on for much longer.

The big buzz around Bradford Cox and Co. started shortly after their second album, “Cryptograms” was released in 2007, apparently recorded in the midst of a tumultuous period for the young band. Cox’s disease, along with personal and financial problems, influenced the band’s sound and the tracks on the album veered back and forth in a series of wild mood swings of punk rock and psych pop.

“Halcyon Digest” is calmer, gentler and more coherent than “Cryptograms” and less poppier than “Microcastle”, but still unpredictable and endearing. On the record, the quintet has managed to portray an emotional clarity through intimacy and simplicity, and the result is one of their finest releases till now.

Deerhunter has always been a band in constant evolvement, developing their sound at an impressive pace. When artists rapidly change their sounds and shift into new directions, you often end up longing for their “old stuff”, but the American indie rockers have a peculiar and clever way of renewing their musical landscape without losing their familiar innovative edge.

An interesting instrumental collaboration of acoustic guitars, electro rhythms, banjo, saxophone and harmonica works surprisingly well together and creates a delightful harmony spread out on the 11-tracks. “Basement Scene”, experiments with the shimmering and charming tones of the 60s, lifted by imaginative and dreamy percussions and proves that the retro-pop influences are still prominent, while “Sailing” is a stripped down ballad with fairy-tale like tendencies along the lines of Sparklehorse. The sublime centrepiece on the album, “Helicopter”, creates magical moments with its soft blend of noise and emotions, accompanied with lead singer Bradford Cox’s stretching his voice to the breaking point.

The album climaxes with the 7-minute long “He would have laughed”, a musical tribute supposedly written to friend of Cox, Jay Reteard, who died in January.  Cox sings “I get bored as I get older, can you help me figure this out?” Boredom and maturity has certainly not hampered the musical quality and creativeness on “Halcyon Digest”. Glimmering guitar pop epics and looping guitar beats, combined with Cox’s ghostly vocals, makes this track a pretty and emotional finale of an album that still reflects the well known tones of Deerhunter, but with a nerve that has radically changed.

[rating:4.5]


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