Photos courtesy of Liz Countryman
You know the feeling of putting on a homemade scarf just woven by your 90-year old great-grandma? That scarf is Deerhunter; only now two of your seventh-grade bullies are standing on either side of you pulling it as tightly as they can if only to choke you out.
Deerhunter is a pillow made of porcupine, or staring at the moon during a hurricane. Giant needles poking the arm floaties of a three-year-old trying to learn how to swim (and now the water is turning into acid). Relaxation, allow me to introduce you to getting shot in the face.
Seeing Deerhunter is living inside a speaker with the knob broken after being violently plied to the right. They make noise you can feel - the kind of sound that acts as blood, pulse-able, transferring memory to the mind in a way that allows the listener to remember what it means to have skin that acts as screaming.
Deerhunter brought that feeling to the Studio at Warehouse Live Wednesday night, giving the raucous crowd of hundreds something to celebrate. The Atlanta quintet seamlessly mixed songs from its breakthrough LP Cryptograms with newer, what seem like richer ones from new double LP, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. Opening with "Cryptograms," a song that sounds like it could easily be a B-side from a five-year-old Faint record, Deerhunter quickly made its way into newer material, and I think the audience was happy about that.
Cryptograms is an album without a real purpose, it seems, something that Deerhunter was using to make its mark, as it were, on an uncertain indie music scene. But since then, it's outgrown this uncertainty, and in Microcastle, given us all something that will outlast even the critics hailing it as one of the best records in decades (here's looking at you, Pitchfork). It's just that good.
Seeing frontman Bradford Cox make his way through the intricacies of a song like "Nothing Ever Happened" is seeing Sonic Youth in 1988 after the release of Daydream Nation. The noise is the thing here - the individuation of the separate instruments does not matter nearly as much as how those instruments come together to form a blanket of ambient loudness.
And to follow that up, as Deerhunter did last night, with "Octet," a song so similar to Broken Social Scene it seems impossible this Atlanta band has only five members, and onto "Microcastle" and "Vox Celeste," is confirmation that these guys clearly understand what it means to act as conductors of feeling. All of the songs they perform invariably move from sound to sound, unendingly bringing together a thorny vine of sonic pulses, a kind of indie rock opera of the electric sublime.
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"Dr. Glass" makes its way into "Hazel St," "Agoraphobia" suddenly turns into "Heatherwood," and then "Twilight at Carbon Lake" makes the end of the night feel obvious. These guys make songs with a crawling reverberation of a constant and familiar drum beat that acts as a kind of soundtrack to a fever dream - one of those things that feels perfect in the context of subconsciously knowing you're going to wake up with a massive headache, but in the moment feels like being born.
The way Cox mixes beats and layers noise allows the band a certain distance from the audience; but it seems okay, because for an hour and a half we became part of the art. We were object and subject - and it felt like we were the collective hand shaking the spray paint. - Brandon K. Hernsberger