Thursday, July 5, 2007

Music Review by Alison Ross

hunter: Greyly Glowing
by Alison Ross

Atlanta is brimming with cool bands lately. The southern city has always been a hub of sorts for popular music and musicians - most famously, Elton John splits his time between Atlanta and London, and the metropolis has bred or harbored such rap and R&B artists as Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, TLC, Outkast, Ludacris, and Jermain Dupris. But Atlanta hasn’t exactly been known as a breeding ground for edgy college radio acts on the threshold of stardom.

Athens, for example - just a few concrete slabs away from Atlanta - can boast of “owning” REM and the B52s, both of whom started out as quirky indie bands before vaulting to fame. But now, Atlanta can lay claim to two talented and experimental bands who are on the cusp of breaking big, The Black Lips and Deerhunter. There are other edgy acts in Atlanta, to be sure, but the Lips and Deerhunter particularly protrude from the pack.

Deerhunter’s 2006 landmark album, Cryptograms, veers somewhat violently between sparse, spacey pieces and crunchier guitar-rock. Indeed, the band actually aims to meld the two disparate styles of garage rock and ambient music. And on Cryptograms, this marriage of near-polar opposites somehow works, even if the result is occasionally rather disjointed and disorienting. Of course, your capacity to endure such discombobulation will affect whether you like Cryptograms. You may, like some, think the vacillation between zoned-out ambience and vibrant fret-shredding is just too schizophrenically frenetic. But in my mind, the album's charisma lies in its ability to careen from ethereal mellifluity to dirty dissonance without missing a note. The songs on the album might not flow in seemless segues, but they do move in a zigzag motion that has its own logical progression.

On the band’s newly released EP, Fluorescent Grey, the foray into strange style fusion is explored a bit more in depth. On the surface, the experiment seems less palatable than on Cryptograms. But one must remember that these songs are outtakes from the Cryptograms sessions, and so they are less immediately engaging than the songs on Cryptograms. It will take a few patient listens before becoming immersed in the tunes.

While the band’s first (self-titled) album plays up the garage rock facet of the band more than its spacey side, Cryptograms heavily features those heavenly hymns punctuated by bursts of brash reverberation. Fluorescent Grey channels the ghost of the self-titled album more than it does the specter of Cryptograms, and yet definite Cryptograms trademarks are apparent, such as the layered soprano vocals of slightly crazed singer Bradford Cox (check out their live show for proof), and spacious song arrangements.

The songs on Fluorscent Grey are just as the title suggests - evoking the minimalism of grey, and yet shot through with gleaming guitars and incandescent noise.

Fluorescent Grey is a perfect companion piece to Cryptograms, and both albums herald an exciting future for a band on the verge of wider acclaim.

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