Deerhunter - Microcastle / Weird Era Continued
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Microcastle / Weird Era Continued

If you've ever read the blog of Deerhunter, you probably realize that wild mood swings and prolificness are just par for the course. Brandon Cox has written epic rants and then apologize (or not), laying out feelings and thoughts in words that sometimes just seem like a grab for attention. At the same time that he does this, he posts new original songs (often under his solo guise Atlas Sound, which also released an album on Kranky earlier this year), videos, and mixes. Band member Lockett Pundt also releases songs there under the name Lotus Plaza, and he'll also release an album on Kranky next year. Needless to say, the group stays busy.

After last years Cryptograms I have to admit that I was excited by the prospect of a new release from Deerhunter, and the fact that this newest effort was a double album more than sweetened the deal. Oddly enough, though, it's one of those albums that I just can't get past arms length on (even after multiple, multiple listens).

It certainly sounds lush and pretty, and explodes nicely in a few places, but melodically I find myself awash in bath of somewhat indescript fuzz as it spins. On Microcastle in particular, I find myself drawn to the blistering "Never Stops" and cracking "Nothing ever happened," but elsewhere the group sounds like they're carving out some melted-back Jesus And Mary Chain style vamps without ever quite kicking it in gear again.

Because of this, I find myself going back to Weird Era Continued almost exclusively. It has an entirely different (certainly more rough) recording quality, and off-kilter tracks like "Operation" retain more of their creepy, uneven edge, while the murky overdrive of "Vox celeste" sounds like the best space-rock band I've ever heard practicing in the basement next door. Songs like "VHS dream" have much more clear separation, as heady vocal melodies, distorted guitars, and a muffled rhythm section all jockey for position in the somewhat lo-fi mix.

So, perhaps it's more the production of Microcastle that I have a problem with more than anything. There are certainly some fine moments on the album (in addition to the songs I listed above), but it sounds a lot more like the softer, nicer cousin to Weird Era Continued (where the rough edges hang out more, but the release as a whole has a lot more personality because of it). Less visceral than Cryptograms, this follow-up shows two sides of a group that still hasn't quite figured out exactly what they want to be.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2008-12-11 20:25:51