Atlanta’s Deerhunter release Microcastle, their second album, accompanied with a whole extra album, which the band say is an album in its own right and not just a collection of outtakes.
But firstly, the main album. Microcastle starts with a short instrumental, a tried and tested trick to get the listener into the right frame of mind. This makes me expect something epic and shoe-gazey, but come Agoraphobia it appears the band are more like a gentle Pavement, all rough edges shorn off. Moving on to Never Stops, you can sense a kindred spirit to bands like Midlake, the blissed out American backwoods vibe present and correct. Little Kids is the sound of rain gently splashing against a basement window in summertime while the title track is a blissful dream until it bursts into a fuzzy life a minute from the end. Calvary Scars scratches around, looking for signs of life. That’s followed up with a couple of tracks, Green Jacket and Activa, that don’t work well alone, but form an important part in the mid passage of the album, giving it a ghoulish air and moving it on to Nothing Ever Happened. This track locks into a repetitious groove, which makes your head spin. Saved By Old Times has some crazy Julian Cope style proclamations, and a sense of the band offering themselves up to the past. Neither Of Us, Uncertainly creaks and groans under the weight of its own bones. Twilight At Carbon Lake couldn’t be more aptly named, as it twinkles and sighs, barely above a whisper eventually ending up a shimmering wake.
As it turns out, the second disc is infinitely inferior to the first. They may not have set out this way, but the abundance of instrumentals and sketches renders it so.
There is some good stuff though. Backspace Century is all splashing drums and a drone like melody, Operation spins in short cycles both melodically and vocally before building to a gravely, sombre break and Slow Swords is a glacial, mechanical instrumental. The rest deviates from nondescript psychedelic sludge, to noodly snippets of nonsense, pointless jiggy instrumentals and overly drugged tunes.
Microcastle/Weird Era Continued is out now on 4AD
The Deerhunter myspace is here