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+ {Atlas Sound} + {Lotus Plaza}

The brainchild of Atlanta, Georgia-born singer/multi-instrumentalist Bradford Cox, he is the lanky/long-limbed 6 foot 4 inch height of noise-ness, who had the unfortunate genetic disorder (Marfan syndrome) that once cursed the late, great Joey Ramone. Influenced by a raft of experimental post-punk acts, from The FALL and PYLON, to SPACEMEN 3 and SONIC YOUTH, the activities of the DEERHUNTER posse (skeletal frontman Cox, drummer/keyboardist Moses Archuleta, guitarist Colin Mee – who superseded drummer Dan Walton – and bassist Justin Bosworth), kept things to a minimum between 2001 and 2004.
The death of the latter musician in a tragic skateboarding accident left Cox and Co in disarray for a while; Justin’s only contributions stemming from a shared EP with Alphabets. Installed as bassist number two, Joshua Fauver (from local punk act, Electrosleep International) made his mark on DEERHUNTER’s subsequent debut album, TURN IT UP FAGGOT (2005) {*6}, the title in reference to initial crowd chants aimed at Cox’s challenging live apparel; party frocks and self-abasement the norm. Released on the independent Stickfigure imprint (depicting a porn-y split-mirror image), the half-hour album guaranteed angular exploits and kaleidoscopic collisions, addressed in PYLON-meets-SWELL MAPS mode via early-80s-styled `Language/Violence’, `Oceans’, `N. Animals’ and a cast-off from their previous EP, `Adorno’.
On the back of a handful of limited edition CD-Rs/books and singles, plus the addition of multi-instrumentalist, Lockett Pundt, Kranky Records unleashed the hypnotic and uncompromising CRYPTOGRAMS (2007) {*8}. Echoing the ebb-and-flow of mid-70s MAN, linking with an imaginary SPACEMEN 3, tracks to hook one line-and-sinker were the mind-blowing `Lake Somerset’, the ENO-like `Intro – title track’, plus prog shoegazers `Octet’, `White Ink’ and `Strange Lights’.
Signed to 4 a.d. Records in Britain, and with Colin Mee posted missing (enter briefly former cheerleader, Whitney Petty), the dreamy MY BLOODY VALENTINE-esque MICROCASTLE (2008) {*8} polished their edgy moments from their previous record; exiled all to the twinned “Weird Era Cont.”, a whole set of bonus pieces available with its microcosmic cousin. Interspersed with the odd, 60s styled pop trip, “Microcastle”, gripped the listener with the glorious `Nothing Ever Happened’, `Agoraphobia’, the J&MC-like `Little Kids’, `Neither Of Us, Uncertainly’ and `Never Stops’. The “Weird Era” set had its moments in `Operation’, `Vox Celeste’, the 50s-tinged `Vox Humana’ and `Focus Group’.
A surprise Top 40 entry, HALCYON DIGEST (2010) {*8}, suggested Cox and Co had been listening to psychedelic acts of all eras; their almost horizontal hallucinogen stretching to include the BOLAN-esque `Revival’, and their most accessible pop dirge to date, `Memory Boy’. The uneasy spirit of a “All I Have To Is Dream”-styled EVERLY BROTHERS was more than apparent on `Basement Scene’, although it’s the glinting and nonchalant lilting of `Earthquake’, the chamber-pop of `Helicopter’ and The STROKES-like `Coronado’, that injected the set with some needed concoction of Red Bull and diazepam.
If one thought the DEERHUNTER boys were on an enforced sabbatical, then one would be wrong, as both Cox and Pundt were lining up fresh records from their respective long-standing projects, ATLAS SOUND and Lotus Plaza. Cox’s unwieldy sidestep had focused his attention on a handful of limited edition EPs, but album-wise, both LET THE BLIND LEAD THOSE WHO CAN SEE BUT CANNOT FEEL (2008) {*7} and LOGOS (2009) {*7}, pushed the experimental boat out via some sunny-day trips that matched the work of his main act. A tad twee and wispy, the un-global sound of the murmuring Cox and his beat-box, allowed him to chill on the likes of `Cold As Ice’, `Quarantined’, `Bite Marks’ and `Winter Vacation’ – all from the first. “Logos”, meanwhile, saw the sunken-chested man collaborate on a couple of tracks: `Walkabout’ (with ANIMAL COLLECTIVE’s Noah Lennox) and the 8-minute `Quick Canal’ (alongside STEREOLAB’s `Laetitia Sadier); `Criminals’, `Sheila’ and `Washington School’ were other spectral moments of unsettling delight.
To complete his triumvirate of albums, ATLAS SOUND’s interim Top 100 entry PARALLAX (2011) {*8} wandered into experimental pop territory; `Mona Lisa’ (showcasing MGMT’s Andrew Van Wyngarden on keys), `The Shakes’, `Terra Incognita’, `Lightworks’ and the equally “light works” of the dreamy `Amplifiers’, realising Cox’s “Parallex” view, or indeed, perception of objects given their relative distance from each other.
Pundt’s LOTUS PLAZA offloaded two sets for Kranky Records: 2009’s THE FLOODLIT COLLECTIVE {*7} and 2012’s SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE {*7}. A joyous concoction of sunshine pop, PHIL SPECTOR and MBV, the lush layers and timid textures of sound were gloriously channelled through `Red Oak Way’, `Quicksand’, `Different Mirrors’ and the 7-minute, `Antoine’. Ditto “Spooky”, another 60s-meets-shoegazer set that stretched out Pundt’s squeaky vox on best tunes, `White Galactic One’, `Out Of Touch’ and `Dusty Rhoads’.
Looser in some respects (Fauver had given way to bassist Josh McKay and guitarist Frankie Broyles), Lockett was somewhat squeezed out creatively from DEERHUNTER’s comeback album, MONOMANIA (2013) {*7}; afforded as he was, only one track to Bradford’s eleven. Given Cox’s rise to indie fame through his various guest work, his slurred drawl or high-pitched howl, hit the right spot on `Neon Junkyard’, `Leather Jacket II’, The STROKES-esque `Pensacola’ and the self-described “nocturnal garage” of the title track.
Rediscovering a fresh impetus after suffering serious injuries sustained in a car crash in December 2014, Cox and Co – minus a solo-bound Broyles – defined their worldly weirdness via the jaw-dropping, against-the-grain FADING FRONTIER (2015) {*9}. A contender for album of the year, despite it only squeezing into the Top 75, the disco-dinted, fractured funk of download-single `Snakeskin’ was as commercial and catchy as Cox had ever achieved; `Breaker’ and the lush-tronic `Living My Life’ coming a close silver and bronze. Opening their account with a Bunnymen-beat(en)/KORGIS-like `All The Same’, DEERHUNTER shot back to the alternative 80s, while the added touches of STEREOLAB’s Tim Gane (on a LeGRAND-type harpsicord) oozed the bejabers out of class piece, `Duplex Planet’. Slowing down to a snail’s pace by way of the funereal `Take Care’ (featuring BROADCAST’s James Cargill) and the spine-tinglingly spooky `Leather And Wood’, the record bowed out with the disturbingly delicate ditty `Carrion’. Javier Morales (keyboards) was added in 2016.
Not particularly anti-commercial, the cassette-only dispatch of DOUBLE DREAM OF SPRING (2018) {*7} was simply that they’d run out of its limited-edition run of 300 copies (sold to lucky punters at a Brooklyn gig), and didn’t think it appropriate to give it away online. 40 minutes of spontaneous experimental Krautrock-like jams (`Clorox Creek Chorus’ and `standout ditty `Dial’s Metal Patterns’ feature on side one), Bradford Cox and DEERHUNTER further explore some lo-fi noodling on the flip side; finale `Serenity’ was a Charles Ives post-WWI piece with lyrics by Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier.
DEERHUNTER’s official return to the fold: WHY HASN’T EVERYTHING ALREADY DISAPPEARED? (2019) {*7} was the canny Cox’s swipe at the world’s unruly political climate; `What Happens To People?’ was a missive most of us mere mortals were asking more often. Not content at railing against his own nation’s weird sense of security, Bradford found the inspiration from namesake Jo Cox (the UK Labour Party MP horribly assassinated a few years back) to compose `No One’s Sleeping’. The added harpsichord tinkering of CATE LE BON on opener `Death In Midsummer’ – reflecting the pile of dead bodies left by the Russian Revolution of 1917 – was another track that suggested DEERHUNTER’s need to write the wrongs of history. But for the 6-minute anchor, `Nocturne’, the brave Bradford explored delicate matters by way of `Plains’ and `Futurism’.
© MC Strong/MCS May2013-Jun2019

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