Dan Deacon: Bromst

By: Greg Gargiulo

Bromst is a freakin' blast. A pre-packaged party complete with any and all ingredients to get even the tamest of folks a bit cuckoo, it shocks and stuns in a style that's difficult to put a specific finger on, easy to get engulfed by and guaranteed to alter one's definition of music. Such is the gravitational pull of Dan Deacon on his newest album (released March 24 on Carpark Records), a dizzying, dazzling assortment of tripped-out computer screams and beats, bizarre bells, wacky whistles, tribal vibes and driving synthesizers, all layered by Deacon, who nails about as many different vocal regions as there are potential classifications. While it fails to fit cozily into any constricting genre like an ADHD kid thrown into a standardized test, Bromst succeeds due to its innovative merit and its true engineering innovation that tosses the rulebook into the bonfire and scripts a new one based on the loopy transpirings inside the mind of Deacon. And boy, what a ball it is up there!

The Baltimore-based Deacon - a lovable, spectacle-donning anomaly renowned for his highly energetic and interactive live shows, which now consist of an entire band but once featured only himself and a smorgasbord of electronic organs splayed on a table in the middle of the crowd - has indubitably embarked on new ground with Bromst (a made-up word he admits has no real meaning). He's taken the musical equivalent of a quantum leap in terms of composition, structure and complexity compared to his earlier days that saw song titles as nutty as "Shit Slowly Applied On Cock Parts" and "sdajhgthjk4gtjh4egwfhjdsgvnmxcbf4," some of which are plainly unlistenable. He takes himself much more seriously - though for Deacon, that's still not very serious at all - and each song exudes a sense of focused intention, whether for the sake of fun or fancy, that can clearly be heard on both micro- and macrocosmic levels.

While his patented computerized rhythms and kooky effects all continue to pervade in full force, it's evident as early as opening cut "Build Voice" that Deacon's packing much more in his proverbial sack this time around. With arrangements that are technically impossible for fingers of flesh to play on their own, he employs a player piano, whose twinkling riffs could refer to the apparition referenced in the content here and elsewhere. The freewheeling, jungle-like "Paddling Ghost" utilizes a similar concept applied to what sound like automated xylophones or marimbas, moving too fast for even the speediest of mallet percussionists, then splitting wide open for Deacon's two-tiered vocals, one of the numerous examples of the way he interprets lyrics. See, the man rarely, if ever, sings in his unprocessed, natural voice. Instead, he manipulates or tweaks it to produce a veritable cast of characters, ranging from members of the Lollipop Guild to sinister warlords to self-aware robots, laying down words either opposite each other, in conjunction, or both. And though they're usually difficult to decipher, most times it really doesn't matter much anyways. In addition, he'll splice in samples of howling or chanting at opportune moments, collectively using the human voice as another instrument, and in doing so, cracking open a new chapter in the role vocals play in music.

But perhaps the finest example of Deacon's carefully crafted musicianship, and consequentially the disc's flow, is in the trilogy of "Snookered," "Of The Mountains" and "Surprise Stefani." Beginning with simple bells and slowly rising percussion, by the end of the three-song, 23-minute long saga it's apparent you've been taken on blissful trip through lush forests and Hopi reservations, and though the moments feel everlasting, the LP is still only about halfway over. "How is this possible?" you may find yourself asking. Throw in "Woof Woof," a certifiably ridiculous freak fest that stews up quacking ducks, party favor slide whistles, a dirty-ass beat, a Claypool-ian bass line and some Alvin and the Chipmunks vox into a bonkers-yet-easy-listening whole, and it appears the man has outdone himself.

For the whimsy, absurdity, passion, precision and sheer defiance of any form of convention whatsoever, I recommend Deacon's sermon to those who like to party, those who like to think, electro fans, freaks, tweakers, squeaky clean kids, those who dance when they listen and those who sit and reflect, and…hell, you get the point - the sermon's for everyone.

JamBase | Deacon's Brain
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[Published on: 6/30/09]

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