I’m not a huge fan of most pop music. I generally can’t stand any song that has three or less chords; while many people take solace in simplicity and are content to hear the same chord progressions over and over, certain songs are so simplistic to my ears that I literally feel physically sick. Dan Deacon is one of the few people I can excuse for writing two and three chord songs.
There’s a certain intangible quality to his music that makes it easy to listen to over and over and over again without getting tired of the things that normally make me want to gauge my ears out. Maybe it’s the sonic trickery he employs to distort and layer his voice to the point where it no longer sounds human. Maybe it’s the way he combines electronic noises with an eclectic range of physical acoustic instruments. Whatever it is, it is in full effect on his fourth proper full length album, Gliss Riffer, which might just be his best work yet.
It feels strange to say that this is his most experimental album, seeing as A) most people would consider his music to fall into the genre of experimental music, and B) much of the album is a lot more straight forward and accessible to the common listener than anything he’s done in the past. But that being said, Riffer pushes his odd sound into new directions that many (myself included) wouldn’t have expected from him. Lead single and album opener “Feel The Lightning” is a pitch-perfect 80’s-style pop song enhanced with glistening modern production.
Deacon has always been fond of using effects to make his voice sound inhuman, but here he uses them in a much more naturalistic way, pitch-shifting his voice up for the chorus to the point where it sounds like a woman, and then layering it with just a tad bit of vocoder on the verses for a warm, deep, almost LCD-Soundsystem sounding harmony. It’s a hell of an opener, and easily his most commercially friendly track to date. But the lyrics are still gleefully obscure, as he rants about having “infinite visions of something new”.
Even more striking is the 60’s psychedelic folk influence on “When I Was Done Dying”, where he vividly describes a nightmarish hallucination over a mixture of tumbling drums, synths and marimbas (a signature combination of his). What’s different here though, is you can actually hear him sing. Like, really sing. He puts so much energy into lines like “my skin did explode, leaving only my shirt” that you might actually believe him. There is still a very digital quality to the song, but the construction of the vocal harmonies sound much more organic than anything he’s done before.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are tracks like “Meme Generator”, a thumping instrumental groove that wouldn’t be too out of place in a modern EDM club. There are a lot of artists out today that cover similar diverse ground, but Dan Deacon actually manages to keep all of these sounds within a pretty consistent aesthetic, which is no easy feat. It’s worth noting that he is actually very well educated in musical theory, holding a graduate degree in electro-acoustic performance (which is the blending of electronic and acoustic instruments).
In addition to all this, he is also a regular contributor to Adult Swim, soundtracking and often cameoing in many of their “Infomercials” as well as other shows. He is also partially responsible for the cult classic viral video “Drinking Out of Cups”, which is a must watch for any and all fans of drugs and/or absurdist humor.
Like pretty much everything the guy has ever done, Gliss Riffer is overwhelming in the absolutely best way possible. There is so much going on, that it covers up how wonderfully simplistic the songs actually are at heart. It’s a warm, kaleidoscopic mess of modern psychedelia that is best experienced through massive speakers or expensive headphones. It’s so deliriously, indescribably entertaining, that it has the potential to turn even the most hardened haters of pop music into fans.
While it may lack the immediacy of Bromst (considered by many to be his masterpiece), or the epic sprawl of his operatic America, it’s a wonderful addition to the catalogue of one of the goofiest and most exciting musical weirdos of our generation. Dan Deacon’s Gliss Riffer is out now on Domino Recording Company, purchase it here.