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Deerhunter: Eligible Receivers Downfield

You expect lead singers to be tall and gangly, but Bradford Cox, of Atlanta’s ambient noisemakers turned gonzo garageband Deerhunter, is in a league of his own, with a physique that would make even presumed invertebrate Iggy Pop look like a fullback. This isn’t because he’s trying to be cool. Like Joey Ramone before him, he has Marfan’s syndrome and looks like he will blow over in a strong wind. But over the years, Cox and his cohorts, notably percussionist Moses Archuleta and guitarist/ keyboardist Lockett Pundt, have stayed grounded by growing nimbler and smarter than most of their peers. If they were a football team, their recent work would resemble the controversial A-11 offense used by California’s Piedmont High and a handful of other schools featuring gangly, underweight smart kids. Fluid and fast, the two-quarterback A-11 offense turns every member of the team into an eligible receiver, making even familiar plays seem off-kilter and unpredictable.

Cox, who records beguiling solo records as Atlas Sound, occasionally posts excellent micromix playlists on his website that underscore his unpredictability (one recent list has Aaron Neville, Lee Hazlewood and Shuggie Otis brushing shoulders with the Residents and Robert Wyatt). Despite these, I was a bit behind the curve warming to Deerhunter. Even though I admired the mind-melding sonic collages on 2007’s Cryptograms, they exuded a chilly air that, in my more curmudgeonly moods, left me running for the nearest vinyl slab of Al Green or Merle Haggard. I had them pegged as a shoegaze band, and I’m just not that interested in footwear.

But last year’s sprawling double whammy, Microcastle/ Weird Era Cont., adds more than real guitars and real songs; it has a fluidity and humanity that I thought was beyond them. You can hear familair strains on almost every track, but the band’s playbook is now covering new ground, turning the field into a dizzyingly blurry hybrid of ambient drone (Can, Stereolab, 4AD bands) and thumping avant-rock (Velvets, Television, Feelies, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and even Cox’s beloved Echo and the Bunnymen). At a time when most of us probably feel like we could be blown down in the next storm, it’s weirdly comforting to know that you don’t have to be Metallica or Motorhead to compete in the big leagues.

Deerhunter, “Nothing Ever Happened”

Deerhunter, “Agoraphobia”

From → Heavy Rotation

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