Album Review: Dan Deacon – Bromst




For a while, I thought Dan Deacon would continue to spit out glow-in-the-dark, psychedelic semi-pop gems (think “Lion With A Shark’s Head”, “Ohio” or “Crystal Cat”). Instead, Bromst establishes Deacon as a strong contemporary of fellow Baltimore-ian Noah Lennox (AKA Panda Bear).

Bromst often feels like a constantly morphing collage, much the way Person Pitch did. However, where Lennox largely incorporated seamless samples of traditional music, Deacon fuses retro-tech beeps, affected vocal harmonies and ADD-rhythm collisions. The opening track, “Build Voice”, opens with a sample that could easily come from an Animal Collective or Panda Bear track. A two-note sample of Deacon’s voice is looped, then backed by a few different versions of that same track, all building, as the title implies, louder and louder. Add a couple of synth/piano samples and a schoolyard-chanted melody and “Build Voice” is complete.

With all but one of the eleven tracks clocking in over four minutes, it’s easy to see that the album will be more “Wham City” than “Crystal Cat”. “Snookered” is the perfect example of this. Again showing his understanding of the importance of crescendos, this one builds from a majestic (yes, I am using the word majestic to describe Dan Deacon; I wasn’t sure if this would ever happen) percussion and synth ballad into a writhing psych-celebration, complete with trilling squeak solo, speaker-trading vocal shout and chimes.

It’s great to see Deacon’s touring band has become so dense. Members of Baltimore freak-out band Ponytail and drum mavens So Percussion (among others) have joined in to help him fill the songs out, rather than having to rely on audio tracks for his live shows. It might not have the same dance club feel that his old shows had, but it’s damn impressive, and really highlights Deacon’s abilities as a composer.

“Surprise Stefani”, another Bromst standout, starts out like it could be a soundtrack to an episode of the “X-Files”. Deep moans are counteracted by drawn-out, piercing synth-tones. Then the Stefani surprise kicks in. The moans are chopped into snappy little beats, aided by drums and piano, and piled into an upbeat rump-shaker (can I say that?).

“Wet Wings”, cited by some reviews I’ve seen on the Internets as unlistenable, is a lot like Spiderman of the Rings track “Woody Woodpecker”. Instead of the adorable cartoon chuckle, though, “Wings” takes an eerie, wordless female vocal swoon (one that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Grouper or Pocahaunted track) and swirls it around. It may be unlistenable for someone wanting another psycho-club-jam, but even ignoring the context, the piece is hauntingly beautiful and austere.

“Woof Woof” might be the “Crystal Cat” of Bromst, as it were. The happy-go-lucky synth, slide-whistle sound effects and loopy guitar sample come together to form an upbeat, dancey jam. The only difference, though, is the complete indecipherability of the vocals here, where on “Cat” you could pick out a few words here or there. Another comparison could be “Wham City” and “Baltihorse”. Deacon’s scope is growing: instead of just shouting out to his Wham City compatriots, he’s giving credit to the entire city.

You saw correctly: I used both “majestic” and “composer” to describe Dan Deacon. Some may miss the goofy dance-pop gems, but Deacon shows off his sound-wrangling abilities on Bromst. So, now we know he can write sharp little tunes and sprawling epics. What will come next?