Review: Microcastle by Deerhunter

Note: This isn’t going to cover the second disc included in most packages of this Deerhunter release.  That one is called Weird Era Cont. and will be discussed in a future review separately.

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My Bloody Valentine is a pretty tough band to follow.  Their distinctive blend of bleeding guitar and mumbling vocals was all but perfected in Loveless, leaving very little room for error within any simulation.  So instead of taking the direct-copy method, why not throw in a bit of Pavement and Sonic Youth?

It is in the midst of such big names that we find Deerhunter on Microcastle.  My Bloody Valentine is the clear first name to drop: heavily distorted guitars reign supreme on most of the album.  Opener “Cover Me (Slowly)” takes it a step further, offering marble-in-mouth singing to accompany the flowing string work.

But Deerhunter doesn’t play it safe and only mimic My Bloody Valentine.  Instead, they explore the vast world of guitar innovation, following the iconic and rambling tones of Sonic Youth.  “Agoraphobia” and “Twilight at Carbon Lake” both follow chiming guitars as they degrade and evolve into sonic paintings.

While these avant-garde ideas would likely be enough to interest a fan of experimental indie music, Deerhunter does not aim for such a narrow group.  Instead, they turn the musical basis sideways by injecting a dose of pop, like Crooked Rain era Pavement.

Interjected between the screeching guitars and muffled singing is a bright rhythm section, leading each song toward some destination.  Semi-single “Nothing Every Happens” clearly lives this duel life of pop song and art-rock masterpiece.  While a great chunk of the song features distorted guitars, the drums are tight and loud.  Even more so, the bass is distinctive and pops out.

The song even enters a sort of battle section as the guitars become increasingly erratic.  All the while, the drums and bass just keep pushing along.  Finally, a resolution is found as the guitars lock into the rhythm and follow along.  This leads to a great outro with soaring guitars and tight drum fills.  It’s a great balance between the experimental and the popular.

Few faults are to be found in this release, with only a few songs dragging out a bit too long in the middle.  However, the unexpected balance between sonic structures and normal structures draws a great deal of attention to this album.  It’s a fantastic blend.

RATING: 9.6/10

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