Monday, February 23, 2015

Dan Deacon - Gliss Riffer Review

Ever since artists started using computers, synthesizers, and all sorts of distorted effects to make their music unnatural the human element has been a far-reaching aspiration. How does one incorporate feelings into sounds devoid of them? The answer lies in ecstasy, an overindulgence of positivity so expansive that the only thing able to catch it is the human imagination. Enter Gliss Riffer, a melodic cacophony filled with pulsating analog loops, rapidly building beat mashups, chipmunk vocals, thumping drums, fetishized harmonies, choppy synth lines, fantastical lyrics, and the most colorful palate of robotic instrumentation known to man. The name of Dan Deacon's latest darling is a contradictory play on glissando, or sliding, soothing sounds, and riff's, the guitar kind, that rattle the glistening sheen of his crisp production with jarring, fluctuating waveforms that act like a pumping heart beat. Dan Deacon has been known as the production guru masked as a goof ball, not serious enough for EDM, not predictable enough for Pop, a balance that helps fuel his own lane. To many, Gliss Riffer seems more like a digression from his orchestral America, a bare bones return to eclectic absurdist electronica, and in many regards they'd be right. With the anxieties and stress pounding through the USA set behind him, Deacon aimed at soaring past them, flying through the sound waves, escaping the pressures of every day society in the most human way possible; through music. 

To this day there still fails to be a more competent artist capable of relating to his fans in a more personal way than Deacon, which is saying something considering his voice, when sporadically present, is shredded through numerous vocal effects. His live performances are filled with off-the-wall antics constructed by minds long since lost. The supreme elation Deacon's music instills puts listeners in a euphoric trance, bodily movements expressing the rapid fluidity their brains hold. Gliss Riffer accentuates this detachment from reality in more ways than one, just see the two lead singles. The video for 'Feel The Lightning' highlights inanimate objects sparking into life to perform choreographed dance, while 'Learning To Relax' comes with a under estimated seizure warning. Both these songs stress primal behaviors, a return to pristine beauty with a focus on simplicity. Deacon's ability to expand on a treasure trove of sounds while remaining inherently blasé about the purpose is a feat accomplished by few Pop artists. Each of these tracks feature a litany of melodies, each addicting in their own right, battling for rights of passage into the listeners cranium. From the jittery, indecipherable chatter mouths of 'Relax' to the prepubescent female voice morphed through Deacon's own on 'Lightning,' the list of memorizing harmonies is ever expanding. 

The Baltimore producer's most ambitious work, Bromst, declared a sanctimonious spot atop his totem pole for its brazen use of lyrics. The under-starlight ramblings of a spaced-out lunatic was the perfect matchmaker to Bromst's psychedelic journey through one's mind. It never mattered what he said, cause the feelings were there, despite the lyrics' sometimes cryptic attempts at announcing forthcoming anxieties. Gliss Riffer continues this with talk of earth, wind, fire, water, and lightning taking center stage, all of it though centered around humans, not nature itself, as a means of amalgamating the two. The clearest, most striking example of this is 'When I Was Done Dying,' an astonishing track acting as Deacon's own internal monologue following his eventual demise. The story is Deacon's clearest vision since 'Wham City' off Spiderman Of The Rings, two tales conveying ones formal escape from reality through vivid imagery and breathtaking progression of sound. It's easily one of the best songs of the early year. But rest assured, there's other moments here where Deacon attempts to nullify humans tendencies to distance themselves from their origin in the dirt. In fact, nearly every lyric here reflects a certain atmospherical condition. On 'Sheathed Wings,' a rollicking party anthem, Deacon hollers "you stand at the edge of the desert screaming, you watch the sky turn into sand." And on 'Feel The Lightning's' unforgettable chorus, female Dan sings "can you feel the lightning covering your skin, it's a nightmare, cause you're on fire."

The best moments off Gliss Riffer, and largely the best of Deacon himself, come out when the artist flashes his gutted, gnarled voice through copious amounts of layered modifications. This means however that the songs lacking this pivotal feature seem lost and aimless, this bodes most prominently to the two final tracks, 'Take It To The Max' and 'Steely Blues.' It's a strange choice considering the previous six tracks never let up on the intensity, 'Max's' prolonged build-up and 'Blues'' elongated wind down feel unnecessary and detracting to Gliss Riffer's overall aesthetic. It's a shame too, considering the rampant madness displayed throughout that the album ends on a single synth extended past the 3 minute mark. The likeness of the outro to Arcade Fire's 'Supersymmetry' is palpable, especially considering Deacon's formation of the album came about whilst on the Reflektor tour. There's time too when Deacon attempts to get too complicated for his own good, see 'Max,' where a slew of sounds bombard the build-up resulting in a jumbled mess. Much of this loudness aims to replicate Bromst's abrasive moments, and while it succeeds in that right, it fails in establishing a foundation. Being 20 minutes longer, Bromst devoted time to subtitles, elongated piano medleys and quiet progressions balanced the see-saw to the album's peak moments, nothing here accomplishes that.

But for what it's not, Gliss Riffer far and away makes up for what it is, a resounding piece of technological joy. The rush of endorphins that cascade through the mind, body, and spirit like a bat outta hell make Deacon's latest a pleasure to undertake in every sense of the word. The melodies, harmonies, choruses, and unorthodox segments (the sensational vocal chopping to close out 'Relax' anyone?) thrusts Gliss Riffer into a category matched by few albums, even those previously made by Deacon. The colorful, action-packed album features one memorable moment after another, with the mastery of production serving as a gold-plated dish to the songs extravagant affairs. A few odd structural and pacing choices here and there slightly deteriorate from the perfect dance record for the mind that Deacon created; you'd be hard pressed not to flail your arms around like a bodiless being. Dan Deacon knows music, there's no denying that. But even greater, he knows instinctual feelings of pleasure, the shockwaves that can reverberate up your spine, through your heart, and into your brain where the lone human contact, his voice, congregates to envelope your mind in obsession. Gliss Riffer is electronic music with a pulse.

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