Monday, 2 June 2008

Deerhunter – Microcastle

This has just gone and leaked its pretty self all over the Internet, somebody fetch a towel, this is a shame really since it has been mentioned to have a November release. That is way to far ahead for it to surface in my opinion, even if I am gagging to hear it. I had a whole feature ready to go about exciting future releases and Microcastle by Deerhunter was at the very top of that list, then low and behold out she pops. So that feature can wait for tomorrow, as this is pretty special.

From the first few listens Microcastle has a slight change in sound to the ambient punk styling of Cryptograms and the Florescent Grey EP. The guitar sound is cleaner and there is much more of an old school pop sound to it. It’s still beautiful, but in a different way, a brighter way. The fuzz is still there as always but not as in your face as before. The reverb has an old feel to it like soul records from the 50s/60s maybe as Bradford suggested a bit like the Everly Brothers gone shoegaze, well I added the last bit, there is also a string hint of Eno’s pop leanings, as there was for the Atlas Sound record. The vocals are slightly more prominent than on the previous LP, but they are still defiantly the Bradford Cox we know and love. Tender, fragile, sweet and soaring while drenched in reverb. Microcastle has a happier edge to it though it shines with a bright light and has some sharp edges to the guitar that Cryptograms didn’t have. Cryptograms was easily separated into two parts an A and B side with ambient sludgy punk sections on the A and more song based stuff on the B, Microcastle is more of a consistent album in that it isn’t so easily split in two. This is a little more traditional maybe or accessible? There is a bit of a doo-whop or blues swing to the tracks that give it a more accessible feel. I’m not quite sure that’s the right word to use for Microcastle as it is still pretty raw sounding and ranges in moods. It has surprised me actually, but pleasantly so.

The intro sets out the sound nicely with souring searching vocals and melancholy guitars. It peaks beautifully then we are right into the tune Agoraphobia, and the phrase, ‘Comfort me, cover me’. The wonderful cord progression brings a slight sadness to the song. A slight hint of Eno can be heard in a Here Come The Warm Jets kind of way.

Never Stop is a plucky little fellow, with a funky swing and beautiful bright fuzz. Bradford’s vocal performance is top notch here, a really good tune.

Little Kids is a slightly more mellow number than the last. The song fills with distortion, fuzz and reverb at its peak. A cacophony of sound then mellows to a finish.

Microcastle the title track has a fragile start, with just lonely guitar and vocals. But then the drums drop and a joyful buzz finishes off the tune in style. The vocal gating effect is used brilliantly here. Again there is an Eno vibe going on.

Calvary Scars, which, I keep calling Cavalry Scars by accident, has been around since last November on a live session, it’s a sweet and fragile tune like a lonely child weeping in a corner.

Green Jacket is a piano lead track with an echo-saturated soundscape with Bradford singing on top. The albums most mellow moment so far and its so beautiful. Floaty, dreamy and it fades into…

Activa perfectly: with a freaky and also dreamy electronic flicker fest with some acoustic picking. What a tune this is wow, nice section there, the last two work perfectly together.

Nothing Ever Happened brings us out of the midway mellow section with a bang and some grungy bass. It’s a perky one this with a proper rock edge. Bradford sings the same melody as the guitar and it works perfectly. The line, ‘It flashed right through me’ sticks in my mind. You can hear the ambient punk leanings in this track it gives me a big grin by the end.

Saved by Old Times is a pure 50s blues tune pretty much, with the echoy twang of strings and that slight clicky slam sound you will know it when you hear it and lyrics about, ‘Victorian vampires’ feature too for good measure. There is also a bit of a doo-whop swing to it. A spoken word montage about ghosts as well: we have it all here. It builds and builds out of its blues routes and into more ambient textures and layers of distorted guitar lines. ‘I was saved by, old times’ is repeated until the climax.

These Hands wavers in with some choppy ambient tremolo guitars. And woozy vocals on top of those fuzzy old school tunes. There is a sense of brightness and fun in all these tracks even in the mellow numbers.

Twilight At Carbon Lake is the Microcastle closer and it comes in with some good old ambient loops not unlike the ones heard on Cryptograms. The guitar melody sounds a little like Stand By Me the classic tune of old sets us off out of the loops. Sweet vocals drenched in reverb flow through buried slightly lower in the mix. A punky peak is hit as this tune builds mind and the teeth come out, with layers of dirty grunge ridden guitars and freaky vocal loops. Deerhunter know when to peak for maximum effect.

That’s the end that’s all of Deerhunter’s Microcastle, first impressions are very good indeed. I’m a big fan and this has just got me all the more excited to get my hands on this album proper. It’s different but still so good. Microcastle is defiantly a contender for record of the year so far. I think I need to calm down now…

I’m not one to spread leaks around so go and check out the Daytrotter Session that featured live versions of Calvary Scars and Activa that feature on Microcastle from the 19th November last year

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