Success, when wielded properly, gets people opening their mouths and nodding a little bit, saying, “Oh, yeah!” It can be politics, it can be art, or sometimes it can just be a sunny day.
But it’s a delicate process. You can’t have too much of any one thing. And in this, lies sacrifice.
But it gets you forgetting about things like theory, mathematical reduction and doubt, and gets you back in the realm of spontaneity, expression and actuality. Dan Deacon is one of the most human electronica musicians doing it, and his most recent output Gliss Riffer only further justifies this.
Undoubtedly a fan of both low-fi indie pop, like The New Pornographers and Wolf Parade, and protopunk like Nirvana and The Libertines, Deacon reinvents the whole contradictory artistic explosion with esoteric means: he channels the things we already know, pop structure, melody and simple self-consciousness, through his muse’s vacuum, and exercises a plea for existence by way of musical reinvention of the self. So not that this is the best music of all time or anything, but it’s music that pleas to be heard, it’s music that undoubtedly needs to be heard.
Opener “Feel the Lightning” swathes the album immediately in a sense of rich melody, whereas followup “Sheathed Wings” evokes electronica cement-block-choppers Hot Chip. But Gliss Riffer is more a dedicated blacksmith hewing something into a sound sheen, and where Hot Chip’s desultorily untreated vocals can sometimes come off as laziness, or something worse, the voice in Deacon is duly modulated, a Frankenstein creation that transcends logic, in vast addition to pop music as we currently know it.
Gliss Riffer is a reality in and of itself of continuous baton-passing. On some tracks the vocals are secondary to the fu**ed-snare-ridden score itself, like opener “Feel the Lightning,” but on “When I Was Done Drying,” as far as I can hear another coy ode to hallucinatory space travel (what could be more intrinsically male?), the vocal takes the fore as a visceral musical instrument in and of itself, and just as a guitar or saxaphone when effective simply “riffs” against its own limitation, just as any man or woman might, hence is the subject matter of the interstellar lyrics.
As with fellow Baltimore natives Beach House, woozy, narcotic synth syrups the festivities throughout, but pastiche as this is, the tonic xylophone-like tones on “When I Was Done Drying” call to mind the candy-coated guitar tones of Wolfgang-era Phoenix.
By employing treated vocals, Deacon avoids the simple trap of boredom that’s plagued so many who may HAVE made great pop music in the past, be in Franz Ferdinand, Beach House or even the Foo Fighters. Where Beach House failed on 2012’s Bloom, in my opinion, cloaking their album in excessive sonic effect that truly precipitated a temporally rendered ennui, Deacon seems to worship sound modulation to a gripping extent, and to efface himself before it, to literally “bow” in the presence of what he sees as pop music’s continuing potential. And the way he renders it, with pummeling percussion informing the delicate, swirling vocal/synth strains, reminds us why music is truly the best form of art: it’s an exercise of the brain that actually makes it impossible to view the world the way you had, before it started.
If this album falls short in any way, which to an infinitesimal extent you could say it does, it’s that, besides holding Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam as a quite prominent informant, the music never actually becomes truly anthropomorphic, never fully comes to life, states its purpose and bashes something, the way of the best of moments of Liars might, or maybe St. Vincent, or something like that. That is to say, if you were to ask what this music is ABOUT, with St. Vincent you might say the glory of trans-gender corporeality, or with Liars you might point to an anarchical quest for sociological equality or something, whereas what Gliss Riffer is ABOUT is more or less just making a traffic-ridden airport run bearable in the car. And trust me, it’s over before you know it.