Sunday, February 4, 2018

Destroyer - ken Review

Dan Bejar, time and time again, has teased going full-blown Synthpop. His ultra Sophisti-Pop routine has, after all, gotten stale in recent years. Destroyer's last project, Poison Season, was seen favorably in my eyes when I initially reviewed it two years ago, however, much like Kaputt, the album failed to subsist over the long-term. Destroyer's brand of New York envisioned through the tourist lens of brightly-lit billboards, chic fall fashion, and dusty romantics amplifies the success of his style, but in the modern age, doesn't overlap well to being particularly compelling. That changes on ken, a modest Synthpop record that dials up the appeal while, largely, dropping his numerous cliched aesthetics. Mostly. Because, at the end of the day, Bejar can't do much to change his voice, which will forever be his greatest detractor. On ken, the successes come when the production masks the singer with luminescence, staggering when he's bemused by his old tricks. For all the walloping classical extravagance of tracks like 'Bangkok' and 'Hell,' or the standard insatiable fanfare of 'Dream Lover,' the rest of Poison Season was largely a bore. 

That can't be said for ken, an album which trims off 12 minutes worth of material from Poison Season while simultaneously incorporating a swath of modern, synth-based instrumentation. There's really only one track, 'Saw You At The Hospital,' that bears resemblance to Poison Season's fung shui, as it's promptly led by a guided piano and guitar medley. 'Sky's Grey,' the album's lead single, could be lumped into the mix as well, given the formal structural-building Bejar incorporates. However, everything else is a rambunctious Synthpop shindig, that, perhaps, goes overboard at times. This can best be seen on 'A Light Travels Down The Catwalk' and 'Stay Lost,' in which farty synths drone onwards, without purpose, throughout the duration of the track. Or, in another light, closer 'La Regle Du Jeu' and its prominent 80's french vogue. The finale, where everything unites as Bejar recites the hook, was supposed to be an epic sendoff, but instead sputters out of control like someone wiping out during a victory lap.

However, ken's brightest moments are something worth applauding, even if their influences are a tad too snug. The first is 'In The Morning,' which travels to David Bowie's only 80's success Scary Monsters whilst complying to the '"Heroes"' principle. That, of course, is the vigorous steamroll of droning riffs. It works because there's no way it couldn't. Then there's the Progressive Pop of 'Tinseltown Swimming In Blood,' a track that plods steadily with intersecting synths and a gorgeous bridge-to-chorus combo. It's on cuts like these where Bejar conforms tastefully to sonic beefiness, instead of demanding to be the primary stage presence. Lastly, 'Cover From The Sun' is marvelous, if only for the fact that it's essentially Destroyer's version of Swans' 'Song For The Sun,' a song so good you should stop what you're doing and listen to it now. Unfortunately for ken, the three best moments are sandwiched together early on, leaving 'Ivory Coast' to fend for itself as best late bloomer. Here, Destroyer blends his prototypical Sophisti-Pop with that of Cocteau Twins' 90's era Dream Pop. All these combinations are sound, and prove lucrative, but ken, like much of Bejar's work, may struggle in the long-term since better versions of these highlights exist elsewhere. For now though, ken's a blast.


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