While Dan Deacon’s 2007 album Spiderman Of The Rings, and more specifically the impossibly joyous first single “The Crystal Cat”, weren’t necessarily my first positive encounters with electronic music, they certainly went far towards erasing whatever “guitar only” prejudices I may have wrongfully possessed up until that point. My hesitancy for electronica had already been in gradual decline over the previous 10 years or so, thanks mostly to the more mechanical directions Radiohead utilized at the decade’s beginning, but it took the 4 glorious, surf-rock mimicking minutes of “The Crystal Cat” to really blow the doors wide open. It was kind of an important listening experience in my own personal history - a moment when the possibilities of music not created by traditional instruments were fully realized in my tiny acoustic brain.
The rest of Spiderman of the Rings was certainly an interesting listen as well, but, beyond the album’s handful of amazing songs (the towering “Wham City” and beautiful duo of “Big Milk” and “Pink Batman” specifically), didn‘t really click. While the skilled craftsmanship was quite evident, there was something about Deacon’s more absurdist tendencies that made a few tracks completely miss their mark for me. I mean, did the world really need Woody Woodpecker’s laugh sampled and repeated for 4 interminable minutes, to start the album, nonetheless? Regardless, Spiderman of the Rings had high points that made me extremely interested in what Deacon would come up with next, which were further intensified late last year when he started touring with a 14-piece live band behind him, performing songs from a forthcoming record. It was around that time that Bromst became one of my most anticipated releases of 2009.
Like Merriweather Post Pavilion earlier this year, Bromst is the rare record that not only lives up to the hyped excitement I felt, but far, far exceeds it. Despite being an invented word that references the percussive focus of the songs, the album title itself seems to allude to something both classical and classic. Add to that the symphonic aura over the album‘s 60 minute running time and Bromst has the feeling of being bigger than it may actually be. Deacon holds nothing back on the album’s breathless opening trio - “Build Voice”, “Red F”, and “Padding Ghost”. Each is a blur of unbridled enthusiasm - the product of an artist who doesn’t seem to be contained by boundaries at the moment. The 3 songs each hit continuous sonic peaks that sound like multiple, simultaneous electronic orgasms. Just as revelatory, album closer “Get Older” surfaced online a few weeks ago as part of a split single with Adventure. It too is a densely packed sonic whirlwind, and joins the others as some of Deacon’s most adventurous and satisfying recordings to date.
Chalk it up to maturity or the sudden desire to have his music move the mind as well as the nerves and body, but the vast majority of Bromst smartly foregoes the moments of nonsense that peppered Spiderman Of The Rings. Computers still buzz and squawk and squeal like crystal cats having strokes, but they are now augmented by live drums and percussion (thanks to members of Ponytail & So Percussion), female back-up singers, and, on “Surprise Stefani”, what sounds like gentle, undulating electric guitar feedback. The album also houses Deacon’s first(?) attempt at straightforward vocals on “Snookered”, while “Wet Wings” is little more than 3 minutes of heavily-treated female vocals harmonizing on what sounds like the melody from some traditional American folk song. If that sounds weird on paper (or on screen, I guess), believe me - Deacon makes it sound even weirder through headphones. But, like every other whim Bromst follows, he also makes it work.
What is most clear when listening to Bromst is that Deacon is at the peak of his creative powers - a madcap genius striving to be taken seriously as both sound artist and traditional musician. The album never once trips over its sprawling ambitions - you’d be hard-pressed to find another modern album with a 60 minute running time that maintains such focus and consistency. The classification of this record as electronic, or electronica, is inevitable, but is also sort of a misnomer. I can’t think of another artist working in the genre whose ideas should be as easily accessible to fans of indie rock as Deacon‘s. Bromst should prove to be his breakthrough to a much wider audience - its palpable, surging energy is flat-out undeniable. Simply put, Bromst is fucking righteous. Dan Deacon has crafted what will prove to be not only one of the year’s best “electronica” albums, but one of the year’s finest albums, period.