Sunday, May 26, 2013

Seeing only binds the vision to the eye: MICROCASTLE / WEIRD ERA CONTINUED


Diving into double album waters here for the third album from Atlanta's Deerhunter - but wait! A little research reveals this one comes with a convoluted release history across multiple formats, the second LP recorded later and sorta intended as a bonus for those who bought the physical release following an internet leak. Strange days indeed. Anyways, regardless of what was intended, to these ears this album feels a little incomplete at the halfway mark, a sense of fulfillment only setting in once you've hit the runoff groove on side four. 

And what you've got here (in double album tradition) is a lengthy collection of little pieces, interludes, straightforward digestible tunes and a couple big blowouts anchoring each end, all united by a prevailing aesthetic that places primary value in texture and atmosphere, blending beauty and unease.

The Microcastle half opens with "Cover Me (Slowly)," a wordless intro inducing visions of a cathedral collapsing in slo-mo, with fluttering angelic vocals, widescreen reverb, and slowly rolling guitars all conjuring the specter of death that will haunt this journey. It collapses right into "Agoraphobia," where true to its title a desire to turn off and tune out comes cozily wrapped in lightly ringing post-soft-rock textures and steady rhythms. The fitful dreamer "Never Stops" has the clockwork click of vintage Andy Summers, the chorus blossoming with howling feedback, more hooks in abundance. A disturbing tale of pyromaniac tots, "Little Kids" ambles with a jagged chug before swells of sound lead to its grand, glowing conclusion.

The fragile "Microcastle" continues, it's first half a strained and sickly drift that unexpectedly bursts into a buzzing rocker halfway thru. It sets up a mini suite of three short songs that carry across to side two, "Calvary Scars," "Green Jacket" and "Activa" all musically and lyrically sparse, contemplative, and the perfect preface to act one's highlight, "Nothing Ever Happens." This one tears away the gauze from our eyes with a taut drum and bass intro, some shimmering Townshend chords, the riff then tossed aside and replaced. Cool thing here is how the song is totally linear, moving from the verse to a one time chorus then taking off for an extended solo serving as elevator ride, finger tapped fuzz guitar punching your ticket on this stairway to the stars.

A jagged, deconstructed blues lick carries "Saved By Old Times" which, in maintaining this album's penchant for forward movement and transformation, is abandoned in favor of an extended chiming outro. "Neither of Us, Uncertainly" plays like a heat-stroked waltz, soupy and repetitive, its atmospheric residue floating into LP one closer "Twilight at Carbon Lake." Straight out of Twin Peaks this one, with a creepy 50's vibe that crescendos in a pounding, squalling climax, one that signals a stopping point but, yeah, it feels like there should be more to this story.

So Weird Era Continued picks up back in touch with the cosmic om on the droning drill bit "Backspace Century," which carries in to the slack syncopation of "Operation," a hooky number that shifts time into the unfolding flower petals of it's chorus. The brief reverse loops of "Ghost Outfit" preface the prickly "Dot Gain," another track that morphs into a whirring freefall before it's over. The drum build up to "Vox Celeste" promises a burst of light but instead a claustrophobic cacophony of dense fuzz is delivered, one beautiful but impenetrable. Instrumental "Cicadas" is pure atmosphere, fluttering drums and distant echoes, before The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" drum intro to "Vox Humana" starts and electric piano bells surround an impressionistic monologue. "VHS Dream" closes side three with hazy, driving rock and the electric arc of sustained guitars.

"Focus Group" heads into the home stretch, head still in the clouds with it's unwavering beat, relentless picking and obscured vocals. Up next comes three brief instrumentals, "Slow Swords" coming into view with tinkling percussion and strummed acoustics building to a hypnotic peak before "Weird Era" plugs in for an injection of feedback wails, "Moon Witch Cartridge" then returning from this no man's land with a short but grounding bit of bouncy piano and eerie vocal/guitar blend. Then comes the closing number, "Calvary Scars II / Aux. Out," the spaces in the first rendition now filled in with bubbling electronics and chimes, drums entering to suddenly drive it into blast off mode where the sonic detritus of the tune congeals into one quivering mass, the rug then pulled out leaving us floating in the aftermath of a new age thunderstorm.