There’s a scene in Rugrats, the Nickelodeon baby-themed cartoon, where the infants are wondering about the place their parents shuttle off to each morning, something called “work.” In their imagination, it’s a giant box, piled with huge stacks of billowing papers and adults engaged in activity better suited for a ball pit. Some of them have huge brooms, and are using them to sweep the pages from one side of the room to the other — “pushing paper” as it were.
If the kids had then turned their imagination to a rave, Dan Deacon would be the soundtrack.
Deacon’s previous efforts have been delightful symphonies of digital cacophony. Simultaneously frenetic and droning, the myriad layers of sound will at least produce involuntary head-bobbing, and will send you into trance-land if you’re not careful. This sound was categorically summed up in Spiderman of the Rings, Deacon’s breakout album released in 2007, a study on overwhelming anti-minimalism.
Bromst is a different beast, though. The digital manipulation was well suited for Deacon’s middle-of-the-audience live performances (look to YouTube for examples), where the sight of someone diddling on a laptop on the stage is abandoned for a full immersive experience. The tracks on this new album incorporate live instruments, which no doubt has reviewers around the internet abuzz with Deacon’s “maturing,” but it’s clear that the artist is simply implementing the insistent loops in his head with a wider palette of sound. The results are warmer but no less manic — it still sounds like Ween hot-tubbing with the Chemical Brothers, a stew of gigantic beats and sonic non-sequiturs.
In an interesting twist, the album fades in slowly with “Build Voice,” a vocal-heavy earworm that skillfully sets the stage for the coming onslaught. I can imagine a track like the frantic “Red F” used as the sonic bed for a time-lapse film of ants building a colony, or bees entering and leaving a nest. So much activity, so much of it apparently random, yet it all aggregates into something… big. “Woof Woof” has a wonderfully slippy bass line which snakes through a wide variety of aural beds. The music on Bromst, while not exactly dub or afrobeat, fits in comfortably with those genre templates. It offers enough simplicity and repetitive riffing to make it perfect for all-day-on-repeat playing, yet it yields a nearly fractal-like wealth of detail when focused on. It’s a natural go-to album for when that indecisive mood strikes you — the one where you want to fill the silent void with sound, but can’t stand to think of what to fill it with.
Bonus: Musical scores for the songs on Bromst are being made available at “cool shops everywhere” in order to incite audience participation at Dan Deacon concerts past their already deliriously-high levels.
Carpark Records: www.carpark.com