I'm really behind on live reviews, I have a backlog of uhh... four other things. But I'm gonna jump on this first because reviewing a recently-released album is one of the few ways this blog is in any way "scalable" (by linking it in the what.cd comments while people might be looking at those). I know that this shouldn't matter to me, but it kinda does.
(The other albums I'm planning on reviewing are Slime Season 3, BBF, Warlord, and Traditional Synthesizer Music. Please harass me if you don't see them soon.)
ANYWAYS, this is the first solo project from former Animal Collective member Deakin. Compared to band leaders Avey Tare and Panda Bear, Deakin is relatively (and literally) unsung, his contributions usually taking a less noticeable role. We occasionally get clear tastes of his influence - he sings on "Wide Eyes" on Centipede Hz, I read on /mu/ that "Derek" was mostly his creation (idk if this true), and, most notably, he produced solo the wonderful Country Report, which I think stands among the best songs anyone in the band has been involved with. So I'm not really sure what to expect from this... it doesn't add up to any sort of complete picture, just a vague beautiful haze.
His solo album has been long, long delayed, at the heart of a kickstarter scandal that I can't be bothered to research enough to summarize but seems basically like any other kickstarter scandal. For awhile people seemed to have some animosity towards him for that, and his absence on MPP - the most successful AnCo album to date - didn't help. But lately I see public opinion shift back... people praising his live shows, his promises of the long-awaited album being accepted, and generating some optimism, some real hype! It seems appropriate, even beautiful, that any amount of backlash over an artist's lack of progress or reneging of promises can be overcome with the sheer beauty of the project itself. Not that I'm like, judging the album under those heavy expectations or whatever... This is gonna be another unilaterally positive hypepiece, I'm sure. That's what I like doing.
Deakin - Sleep Cycle
1. Golden Chords
Hmmm already we get a sort of ASMR-esque noisescape like old Avey Tare stuff... oh man... the cricket noises... this swelling sensation. I love it. What language is that? No idea. Oh man this sputtering engine sound is super nice too. Really muddy, night time swamp tranquility. Oooooooh and these instruments, this is just really pleasant. OH man I actually LOVE his voice, so mellow and rich... "Rain shines"? That is a nice image. "Rachel's coming round to talk about Friends"? like the actor? the sitcom? The way the vocal line gets more active, and then the instrumentation swells out, ohhh man that's nice. And that subtle popping percussion... sweet. "Brother shake these broken chords till they turn gold", unsure what this means but the idea seems nice. This reminds me of Sufjan Stevens a lot, really! The way the vocal lines run about... this message of like... ambiguous reference but clear moral/emotional meaning, I love it. And everything is draped in this hazy nighttime feel... ahh, I wish it was summer! I wish the weather wasn't so awful!! "On the verge of everything you tell me what's wrong"? something like that? I like that line if that's what it is hahaha. Just swimmingly uplifting AnCo style advice :D Okay yes. If the whole album is like this I will be very happy. If he has other ideas I'm sure I'll love them too. ***
2. Just Am
OOOHhh cool transition. OKAY wow this is sure an other idea. This is some PBMTGR shit right here. This is underneath some sort of electric water sort of feeling. Egyptology stuff? "Don't make sense to me right now, but I am singing, I am singing", this is a very good AnCo type message. The texture of this track is actually nuts, it has so many "jagged" staticky elements and yet in total becomes so overwhelming it's almost soothing. OH MAN the piano line around 1:30 is super nice, a really really wonderful contrast, and I just love that song in isolation. Is he talking about... the three little pigs?? "I wonder if that's home", ahh, this is a topic well explored in AnCo. Oh man this relentless vocal line. "Daddy I can't see, I lost my voice, I need direction", this is... suddenly very intense!! Oh COOL, at 3:10, this crazy alien-bug soundscape, and yet a really standard sort of melodic progression over it. There is like... a whole lot going on hahahaha. I can't really get a good handle on the structure of this. It feels like two major pieces of 4 minutes ish, like here comes the piano again, I dunno, it's huge, I feel like I'm drifting in it, it is a great feeling. This piano line omg, so simple, so good, and the way it's sustained for much longer in this second iteration, he KNEW, he KNEW I'D LOVE IT hahahaha. And oh man the panning effects too... really feels like you're being wrapped in it, bathed in it. OH MAN THE LOWER PIANO CHORDS TOO, and now voice samples on the outro, that is one of my musical fetishes, even if I can't understand them (I can't), just that sense of "contextualization", "performance/reaction". and CRICKETS omg I love crickets, this tight cricket loop is making me feel some type of way. SO COOL. ***
3. Shadow Mine
Hmmm, a short one. This is very interesting. A sort of punctuation. Now we see Deakin mirroring the what I think are Arabic prayers at the end of the previous song? Beautiful... feels like a whole world away... and CRICKETS HELL YEAH. S+
Footy? Like football?? His voice is so strained and breathy here, he's really selling us on this sort of salvation. "You've got to be brave!", and he puts the bravery right in the SOUND OF HIS VOICE OH MAN THESE DRUMS! is this JANE? is this SONIC BARRAGE DRUMS? oh HELL yeah. Is the whole song just going to be this endless explosion? OH NO right as I say that, PHASE THREE, his vocals becoming even more unbound, and that PIANO AGAIN oh MAN OH MAN. "Just look at his face, you'll see that he's alright, he's fine" or something, and then we go to something that could be called "restraint", but is really just another type of explosion. Bakuhatsu. I love it. And now a complete sonic dismantling around 2:40, I love it, the percussion here is so nuts, that overwhelming sawing sound. "I just want to see you happy", even this isolated understandable lyric is very heartwarming. I love the surging energy of this one, it's such a nice contrast to the previous tracks' flowingness... "I always tear up when I see how you shine", :D "Ohhh, this time/what?" is suddenly very hilarious. Sometimes his voice can "drop out" of the mix in a way that feels sort of like an aside, sort of James Murphy-esque, and it's great. Oh MAN these chords that are filling up all the gaps in the sound, how is this EXACTLY what I wanted? It just is, it just is... And the drums still going absolutely wild, I love it I love it, oh my gosh. It is madness to think that this was all crammed into his head. The way that wild "sawing" sound seems to be wandering both towards you and away from you in the outro is godlike. I think that must have something to do with how it's mixed. Or something to do with magic. And how it decays into a wholly different feeling... ahhhh... wowowowwow ***
5. Seed Song
Shorter one here... good variation in length, feels Person Pitch-esque. This weird echoey static sound... it still feels so human, in the way the pattern of it changes so strangely. Like breathing, sort of, unsteady breathing. And the water sounds and stuff too. It all feels so organic, it even has that roughness, and sourness(??? unsure what I mean by this... it just reminds me of the bitterness of fresh vegetables, sort of). It has that sort of edge to it. The way the vocal parts drift by is very nice... it has a real sense of space, even if you can't at all imagine the scene. For some reason it reminds me of some of the stranger planets on Space Dandy, what a good show that was. Ohhh man, and I'm hearing more melodic elements come into play here... I think I'm hearing the foundation of the "Good House" being built... oh man, this could be TOO BEAUTIFUL I think. I'm pretty excited. S+
6. Good House
Oh man, those heavy echoes, almost sonaresque echoes, also feeling like construction... "I'll be cleaning the temples I built in this house"? another very Sufjan-esque line. "Retreating from answers to the questions I've asked", "At every stage, poked myself blind"... ahh... OH MAN, oh man, these little blooms of noisey elements are wonderful. "Hold on, keep up, I'll show you inside this good house where I'd like to spend all my time", something like that, I think I get the idea. This is the sound of the house they wanted to build on "My Girls", I think. This is the sound of inside of it. "My hands can show us the way but look how they shake" :( "You always find reasons you're frightened" :( but it's always from the perspective of an encouraging presence. Breathing exercises :) I did those when I was donating blood for the first time today :) a happy memory now :) Replenish in flight :) "So I breathe my way down, and I breathe my way deeper", this is a very wonderful image, that sort of meditative understanding, a calm understanding. Holy shit this is good. I really can't overstate the beauty of this. "Shiva, come home, I'm ready to play", like the Hindu God? I suppose. This is the apex of that sorta fusion... the churning pulse breath, the steadiness of the cardiovascular system as a whole... "Spit out all that rage, you're safe now don't fight, you're body's engaged, just flow and get right", :D what a great idea. "You're following angels" :DDDD ****
Okay now there's live tracks as a sort of bonus, but I think I'll just listen to them as I write the outro and not comment on them directly. It's already getting pretty late.
This is the peak, Deak!
The critical pendulum of Painting With, which began pretty positive, has begun to swing pretty far into some pretty harsh criticism (at least on /mu/, which is maybe no surprise) and this uhh isn't about to help hahaha. Now, I still really like Painting With, I still think it's a super fun album, but I also stick by what I said at the end of my review: they don't have the imperative or the inclination to make "masterpiece" tracks.
At the time, I sort of struggled to define what it was I meant by that concept, but here I have been given four (FOUR!!!) clear examples. Looking at the pressure of the kickstarter scandals, the delays, and adding to that the inherent expectations people would have of an AnCo member's solo projects, you'd think it'd make sense that Deakin would feel the very drive that the core band itself seemed to be lacking, the drive to really exceed expectations.
But I really can't see this music coming from that sort of motivation. I don't think he made this huge, sonically dense, tonally diverse, adventurously structured tracks because that formula is objectively impressive (although it is). Instead, I think this album emerged organically from meditation, cultural exploration, experimentation of all kinds, and that the only form it could feasibly have taken was something so brave and gigantic.
Despite everything that's going on at any second - the number of instruments, the number of effects, the number of melodic lines and resultant harmonies, and the masterful mixing and production - it somehow adds up into something that feels very much like a jam band, like something recorded in campfire improvisation. Beyond that: at the best moments, it feels something just like breathing. A truly beautiful and unique album. I can't wait to explore it.