Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sparks for Sounds

     I managed to get my hands on Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings (actually the only CD of his that I have) recently, but hadn't really given it a serious listen until now. I've got to say that it's highly interesting. His live show was a really visceral experience, a combination of performance art, interactivity, and musical exploration. But his recordings seem the complete opposite: thoroughly cerebral, albeit in a really unconventional way.

     Admittedly, I haven't even managed to get through the whole thing, much less form a coherent opinion of it. Part of that is my own laziness, but part of it is Deacon's own damn refusal to let me wrap my head around his music. Sure, you could call it electronica, but that seems shallow and a little unappreciative of the craft that Deacon puts into his work.

     Sure, his set-up is mostly recycled equipment that he's jerry-rigged into some Seuss-like music machine, but that's part of the whole musical process on Spiderman of the Rings. Instead of simply layering sounds, one over another, the tracks seem to emerge and intertwine, embodying the tangled system that gives birth to his music. "Wooody Woodpecker" takes the eponymous cartoon's distinctive laugh and slowly dissociates it from its roots, mixing it with a gentle plinking beat that is soon melded with a rapid-fire drumming. It sounds less like electronica and more like electronic life.

     Rooted in the absurd, the everyday, and the foreign, the album plays out like some strange ion-charged soundtrack to a LSD-induced trip through a Dali gallery. But even dropping names and drugs does little to properly describe the album. Can you dance to it? Sure. But you could just as easily sit and wander through what is nothing less than a sonic exhibition of rhythm, texture, and repetition.

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