the New Deal have a new album out. It's on a major label, Eponymous, and it kicks ass. I still can't believe these guys have only been together for a few years. Maybe "masterpiece" is too strong a word for it, but the album definitely contains a near perfectly organized song structure that ebbs and flows with the best of them. Their three previous albums were all released by the Sound-and-Light label. While they are all very good records, they seem to lack the precision that fans of electronic music usually rely on.
I started off with no idea of what this album might hold, except for the red herring known as the EP Receiver. I guess you could call Receiver a prologue to the adventure that would soon follow its' release. By now, I must've listened to the new album in its entirety six times. Each song can easily stand strong alone but they also incorporate the mood of whole trip, like iterations of the album’s equation. The boys definitely used their time in the studio to its full advantage. They didn't attempt to exactly replicate the live experience, but instead created an entirely new experience that can be much appreciated blaring from between the speakers of a nicely cranked pair of headsets. Me, I like my studio stuff to sound studio, and my live stuff to sound live, or what’s the point? Why would I buy the album when I could just get a copy of a great show? This new creation offers fans of the New Deal something that can't be heard at a live show, it's a combination of live performance and studio constructions that could be described as Studio-Live.
When I first popped the CD into the player in my car, I was on my way home from work, and at first I wasn't sure to exactly what I was hearing, did I miss the beginning of the album? I forgot how tND slides into their sets between the beats and chirps of a DJ's spinning record, and this is how they glide into the album as well. They do it seamlessly by setting you into a trance with the opening sounds, and then stack up the bones of the tune one-at-a-time. Then they kick it down, and get nice and funky. James "Guitar" Shields leads off the fray with a plethora of keyboard squeaks and squiggles in "Back To the Middle." The album quickly gathers momentum and carries you further up with "Receiver," a hard-to-define song. It sounds kind of like a disco party on the Millennium Falcon. It had me doing The Robot in my car.
"Receiver" deflates into the plateau of "Exciting New Direction." Every time I hear this song I can see its' story play out in my head. I imagine a person caught in a sorrowful situation, so they walk and they keep on walking. A quick break beat and a gurgling bass-line sway you back into the turmoil with "Self Orbit." It exudes a confidence and agility aligned with soaring soundscapes that cover your peripheral. Then it quiets. Shields once again lays down a pounding, almost comical rhythm that [bassist Dan] Kurtz picks up and gives some steam. "Intro (Deep Sun)" drives straight into "Deep Sun" with crashing impetus. "Deep Sun" is another plateau of the album that itself is like an epic. It is one of those songs you can see performed live at usually over 15 minutes. The undulating vibes and rock steady beat never retreat. You forget everything and then burst
into "Glide." Kurtz starts a dribbling, slow bass groove that drops dollops of funk on the line. Shields again giggles the keys while Darren Shearer, the rhythm section, keeps it interesting with some tricks of his own. That tune also peaks, plateaus, and then drops you into another tune, "Talk Show."
"Talk Show" backs away from the previous ryhthm and enters an ephemeral phase. A more organic sounding song on than most on the album, and a bit of sweet rest placed nicely in the middle. It drifts along with heavenly clavinet sounds, extremely appeasing to my beaten down eardrums. I can't help but thinking about other things, rather than the music. Shields wakes me up with an epiphany called "Technobeam." I say epiphany because they usually are a lot
simpler than we imagine. This is probably the most similar sounding song to one you might hear playing in a DJ's set. The percolating melody and grinding rhythm of "Technobeam" gets you grooving hard again and has you praising modern technology for allowing music like this to happen. It hurts if I don't dance to it. It too dissipates into the next two songs; "The Ray Parker Suite: Parts 1 and 2." I guess we would be in the third act of the play now. This last section of the tour starts with an unwavering beat, adds a trebly bass riff , and dances around until it falls to the ground.
The epilogue of the album is "Then and Now." Some people might hear echoes of Kraftwerk in this song. It is the longest song on the album, but the time flies. It has a mediocre b.p.m. which keeps me moving. It isn't anywhere near the same timbre as Kraftwerk though, more Pink Floydish. "Then and Now" carries the organic movements of life with it, another color from their never-ending palette. This is definitely a great example of the band's abilities. When the album ends, you feel complete. They have taken you on a journey to the center of your mind, and there's nothing left to do. If their next album is as good as this one, I say bring it on!
the New Deal are currently touring the west and heading east, playing shows with DJ Harry and DJ Logic along the way. The album can be bought in most retail chains and on their website at www.thenewdeal.ca. Excerpts from their albums can be heard at www.cdnow.com.
Ross D. Minott