Saturday, December 13, 2008
Deerhunter - Microcastle
This album works because it likes all the same albums I do. It appreciates Mission of Burma, Joy Division, The Byrds, Richard Thompson, Brian Eno, Slowdive, etc. It's a synthesis the likes of which I have never seen before: it goes through all your favorite records and identifies the peaks, then cuts them out and pastes them all together into a collage of everything that is the best about all the music you already love. As such, it is one of the most depressing albums I've heard in a while.
Not only does it refer back to all your favorite music, it even refers to itself. So contemporary it's contemporary of itself! Microcastle... everything has been digitized, synthesized, reduced in size, and fit into a box. After all, a castle is just a glorified box. As is a computer, or an album, or a womb...
But I digress. This album is like a river. Like the river of life. It ebbs and flows, it brings you to a new high and to a new low. But it is not this straight-forward, it must pay its tribute to irony. Irony, which is the guiding force of our new lives. Irony in that the highest points are also the lowest, such as on “Nothing Ever Happened,” which climaxes after the line “I never saw it coming, waiting for something from nothing.” A self-defeating anti-climax, in an age where we rely on technology for most of our climaxes. So what's this? Why won't Cox deliver? What is with his apathetic, disinterested vocal delivery and his depressing lyrics? Can't he go be depressed somewhere else?
That's not it at all. This album is, first and foremost, a mirror of our times. Our new synthesis is not one of making disparaging styles click together, it is one of breaking down the ideas which supported those styles and then throwing everything together until it is easily manufactured and reproduced. Music isn't marketable unless it fits a template or reduces previous music into a template. This album does that so well it's incredible, but at the same time, it does so with an air of melancholy and irony. It has to rely on the past, because what is there to rely on now? “Saved by Old Times,” expresses that sentiment perfectly. The past still provides an aura of meaning, whereas our present provides only disillusion and unreality.
This album is an experience. It divides between the really catchy song-songs, like “Agoraphobia,” “Little Kids,” “Never Stops,” “Nothing Ever Happened,” and “Saved By Old Times,” and the other songs which are more ambient mood pieces. It's tempting at first to say, oh well there's the singles and the other crap that fills it up. But the transition between them is really impeccable, and both are completely necessary to complete the “feeling” of the album. That completely enveloping mood, what I like to refer to Baudrillard for and call “melancholy and fascination,” the dominant ethos of our times. It's always a back and forth of breaking down our musical systems and then running back to them. That is essentially the loop we are trapped in. But doesn't it sound great? Or at least... fascinating?