On his album America Dan Deacon explored themes around the vast landscape of the states, borrowing from what at moments was like a mix of marching bands and American genres of music run through a filter of electronics that concluded with a four part ode to the country. And while Deacon is a stalwart member of the Baltimore electronic music scene, he’s also known for his classical work, even making his debut at Carnegie Hall in 2012. On top of all that, he writes film scores, including one for Francis Ford Coppola. This range of skill and ambition shows why the first song to be released, “Feel the Lightning” from the new album, Gliss Riffer, already has over 200,000 plays on Spotify, and his show at Rough Trade in NYC is sold out.
The new album veers towards a terrain that is at once more precise and poppy, but soon reveals itself as a genre busting mix of textures. The first song on the new album, “Feel the Lightning” with heavily treated vocals and memorable hook serves as an immediate attention grabber. But then things work towards a speeded up rush when the song “Sheathed Wings” shows off a trance pop insistence. It’s got a hint of polyrhythm, a slight world music vibe, as though someone had wandered into an overgrown forest filled with synths, a hallucinatory feel.
“When I Was Done Dying” displays the same dense mixture of rhythms with a hint of pop heroics and a steady stream of storytelling over it all, delivered in a kind of vocal that reminds a little bit of early Weezer, although the overall effect here is not that relentless cheerfulness.
The sea rolling bass which enters in underpins it in a weird mix of folk pop and electronic rhythms.
“Meme Generator” has to be one of the best off the album. At the beginning, it has a deep beat and trance like vocal, reminding a little of Museum of Love, but it’s quickly followed by a repetitive rhythm that gives the impression of a world speeding up. But it’s the haunting electronic keyboard motif that gives this song its oddly soulful mood, emphasized by the melodic continuation that allows the feel to drift over the incessant rhythm underneath.
“Mind on Fire” encompasses an urgent, anxious feel with a dreamy background, so many ideas side by side, a layer cake of electronica. “Learning to Relax Again” has that hint of the eighties, especially in the vocal, without treading old ground. Better living through electronica with that same insistent pulse that makes the entire album feel like a dizzy spiral through ideas.
More consciously poppy at first than America or Bromst, the end of the album is serious, leaving behind the nod to pop atmosphere for elaborate patterns that are altogether hypnotic. What is clear is that the landscape for electronic music is still expanding. Gliss Riffer offers a range of themes and ideas, maybe influenced as much by John Cage as Panda Bear. This is clever stuff, sticking in your thoughts, demanding more than one listen, and questioning our future expectations of electronic music.