Sunday, May 5, 2013

Manic for Sonics! by Alison Ross (CD review: Deerhunter's Monomania)

Bradford Cox is a rabid consumer of music and a rabid producer of music in equal measure. His voracious obsession with both musical input and output has a disconcerting intrigue to it. Over the 8 years that he has been active with his two projects, Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, Cox has flowed forth with a total of 8 Deerhunter albums and EPs, 3 Atlas Sound albums, some singles from both bands, and hundreds of additional songs released on his blog. He is, in a nutshell, manic for sonics. In deploying the title, Monomania, Cox is making a stark confession about his at-times pernicious preoccupation with music (he's had several nervous breadowns over the years). Here, he is finally able to synthesize all of his wildly disparate influences (from Echo and the Bunnymen to 60s girl groups to everything in between), those tuneful idols that keep him up at night, sweating with audiophile fever. But whereas past Deerhunter efforts have largely mined the soft, shimmering surfaces and doom and gloom depths of shoegaze and post punk, Monomania is fuzz-wrapped avante garde Americana. The best of Deerhunter's five albums, Cryptograms, was all angular ambience, elliptical ethereality, and mercurial moodiness. Other offerings were mostly drenched in post-punk nostalgia, featuring the odd forays into gritty garage rock. But Monomania cranks up the garage element to full filthy effect, allowing dirty distortion to slyly shroud the folksy, scratchy-voiced dirges within. Even Cox's folk-ish Atlas Sound has not traversed too far into the pastoral soundscapes of Americana. And hell - there are even times that Monomania recalls The Stooges or other glammy garage acts. Mostly it just sounds like a way better incarnation of DH's clunky, noisy, but still listenable debut, Turn it Up Faggot. There are some shoegazey tracks on Monomania, of course, mainly by way of the contributions of guitarist Lockett Pundt, whose own solo project, Lotus Plaza, leans more toward the ambient and postmodern punk ethos than toward the Dylan folk-rock and Bo Diddley rhythm and blues Cox is so fond of. Next issue there will be a track-by-track dissection of this just-released masterpiece (I need more time to digest it), but for now, relish in the soulful dissonance that is Monomania!

NPR First Listen: Monomania

No comments: