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Deerhunter – Weird Era Cont. Review (In Real Time)

**For maximum effect, please read the opening paragraph with the inflection of a radio theater narrator circa 1955 or so**

When we last left our heroes, Kenny Bloggins and friends were destroying the paradigm of lame and old hat record reviews with a critique of Microcastle in real-time, before your very eyes. After careful consideration and a positive response from readers, the real-time review is back for another go with Weird Era Cont. Keep your dial locked to this station for keen adventure that can only be described as 23 skidoo! For you listening at home, feel free to follow our friends’ frolic on Last.fm.

Alliteration, mashing play, most triumphant…

“Backspace Century” (2:18) – Paging Brothers Reid! Deerhunter channels the Jesus and Mary Chain better than they could channel themselves post-Darklands. The vocals are distant, dark, and fluttering, like Alan Vega from Suicide minus the shaman-like yips. This is the most Cryptograms-like of the new material.

“Operation” (4:04) – This is the only song I dislike so far from the M/WEC camp (I have decreed that this shall be the alphanumeric abreeeev for Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. and it’s pronounced “em-weck”). It’s too Television-ish for me. I like Television, mind you, but I don’t want that from Deerhunter. I want Deerhunter from Deerhunter. I think that’s fair.

“Ghost Outfit” (0:32) – What do you know about the pole shift hypothesis? This is more or less Art Bell territory of course, but it has scientific merit as well. According to recent studies, the Earth rebalanced itself some 800 million years ago to the effect of 50 degrees within a few million years. One apocalyptic scenario entertained, but not scientifically viable, is the notion of a physical shift of the poles and alteration of the Earth’s axis of rotation in a short (i.e. a year) period of time. This would be a particularly gnarly “End of Time is Nigh” event. If that happened, it might sound like this. Fingers crossed, kids.

“Dot Gain” (3:18) – Whereas Jim James’ reverberated vocals come courtesy of hangin’ tough in a grain silo in Shelbyville, Kentucky, BC purposely trips and falls down a deep well nestled in frozen tundra, for the sole purpose of singing out of it for “Dot Gain.” Deerhunter is more majestic than the Cocteau Twins. Which reminds me, as much as I love Kranky, Deerhunter is a 4AD band. 4AD in the early ’90s was A+.

“Vox Celeste” (3:31) – Oh shit. Kevin… hey Kevin.

Whas hattin’, KS. Not much man, just chillaxin’ if ya heaaaard. Listen dude, MBV needs to get back in the muh’fucking’ studio quick because Deerhunter is all up on your shit. But, like, they’re not ripping you off. It’s something else entirely. It’s like a really dirty, art-damaged Loveless, but a really robust, orchestral Isn’t Anything. They might have just become the best shoegaze band on the planet. Go git yer crown back, maaaang. Time is money and money is studio knob-tweakin’ time. Alan McGee ain’t gon’ give you shit if you don’t smoke those fools. Go!

“Cicadas” (2:30) – Deerhunter plays jazz hands. Add this droner to the sunny side of noise a la Black Dice, Religious Knives, Mindflayer, Experimental Audio Research, Four Tet’s weirder stuff, etc. Absolutely gorgeous. The soundtrack to a sunrise over a forest fire. I wish the song was longer. I mashed play on this a couple of times, but exhausted my multiple plays joke in the Microcastle review.

“Vox Humana” (2:32) – This would be just some nice twilight pop if BC was more on the singin’ tip than the spoken word throat duty. Deerhunter is continuing to try to frighten you on this record, which is fine as Microcastle brings the warmth and assurance. I’m always a fan of the classic Beach Boys drum intro.

“VHS Dream” (2:33) – Fuck the No Age comparisons, Deerhunter just became an honorary shoegazer band, factory-certified. Treat them as such, and watch out for their co-headline with Slowdive. Concerning this particular wall of sound lament, the melodic minor composition is so effective (contrasted against the majority of M/WEC) that “VHS Dream” becomes a startlingly destructive dirge – an unsettling cadence that ventures over into Swans latitudes. Prolific.

“Focus Group” (2:49) – I’m getting tired of this album being amazing. “Focus Group” is anthemic and innocently magnificent. Nothing more, nothing less. Wish I had deeper thoughts on this matter. But I don’t. Whatever. Go read Pitchfork, clean your room.

“Slow Swords” (3:25) – Sheeeeit. You know how I keep very loosely comparing Deerhunter to kraut rock superstars whenever I write about them? Well they finally up and did it, and vindicated me as a prophet. “Slow Swords” is crunk as shit and is STRAIGHT UP FAUST’s THE FAUST TAPES. This ditty flushes around some choice analog tape loops, which is the right way to do it. Very want. I’m rather stoked that Deerhunter’s popularity will help expose groups like Faust to all the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah retards.

To interject here, BC stated in his blog that he wanted MC/WEC to be a fall/winter record. Microcastle is very sunny, in many respects. However, this song, and a lot of WEC is rather autumnal, so I’ll grant him some serious October stereophonic decimation.

“Weird Era” (2:39) – Merzbow in the hooooouse! Snarf!

“Moon Witch Cartridge” (1:31) – This rippin’ instrumental interlude showcases some serious space pad love for Esquivel, Broadcast and, subsequently, the United States of America (the band, not the UN-recognized sovereign nation). It has a library music feel as well, so if you’re hip to this Atomic Age joint, go peep out Ghost Box and get shattered.

See the last sentence of “Cicadas” for additional thoughts on this particular chanty.

“Calvary Scars II / Aux Out” (10:11) – Let it be said here that Bradford Cox has a fuckin’ aces falsetto. We’ve never really heard it like this before, so look for it about a minute into the song. This epic is nothing less than amazing chamber pop. If the Arcade Fire were more gutter punk than art school student, “Calvary Scars II” would be the outcome. Once again, Deerhunter exists in this strange chasm between fuzzy sludge and krautrock. Though they don’t sound like Neu or Faust, per se (except for “Slow Swords” perhaps), “Calvary Scars II” and “Nothing Ever Happens” from Microcastle are fiercely motorik. If you were fighting in a medieval battle, but rode high on unicorns instead of steeds and bested your opponent with candycanes versus lances, 4:03 – 7:31 of “Aux Out” is the best battle cry you could have. This track could also act as triumphant shag music (it is Deerhunter’s deontologial duty to please that booty). Shit is crucial.

NICE ambient zone out at the end. It concludes with a fluid, twinkly drone examination not too far from early Sigur Ros, Growing, or minimalist William Basinski. Dynamic.

I like Cryptograms a lot. I sorta like Flourescent Gray. But goddamn, I did not expect Deerhunter to slay me. Twice! I’ve been twice slain! Microcastle in conjunction with Weird Era Cont. is one of the most significant, important releases of this decade, hands down. Neither one is better than the other – they’re one sick unit.

And I now take umbrage with the idea that an album is either pop or experimental. Though I’d like to think that the Beatles’ last four albums debunked that myth, the label-happy world of the blogosphere has again segregated these term, shall we say, “terms” when reviewing music. It’s lazy journalism. Weird Era Cont. is a flawless example of toying with pop structures and creating a soundscape that’s both catchy and mind-melting. You can hum along or you can rip the bong. Each is equally appropriate, and Deerhunter does this with an increasingly recherche panache.

I’m hesitant to post MP3s since these came from the accidental leak and, perhaps, may be unfinished. They sound mastered to me, and I’ve produced music before. So if anyone associated with Deerhunter wants these songs removed, I will certainly do so. But please understand that I’m a serious advocate for this record, and I exalt that shit on high. Not only will I be buying this record when it’s released, but I will be buying this album multiple times as Christmas gifts for friends as well. I did this for Aegatis Byrjun when it came out back in ’01, and I think album is easily on that level. I have nothing but praise for the unequivocally beauty that has amassed in this two hour exercise in deep earth exploration and psychedelic pop craftsmanship. I hold Bradford Cox just a couple of clicks below Desmond Tutu in terms of the most important people currently living. I unwittingly use a lot of communist-style colloquialisms when describing Deerhunter now (i.e. “most glorious”). It’s insane. The Decibel Tolls is now officially the most rabid superdelegate for Bradford and friends.

Fagen-Becker Rating for Psychedelic Quality:

MP3 :::
Deerhunter – Cicadas
Deerhunter – VHS Dream
Deerhunter – Vox Celeste