Originally Written & Posted at Epinions.com on 5/6/08
Atlanta's Deerhunter is one of the new bands emerging from the indie music scene thanks to critical buzz, word-of-mouth, and support from other bands. The band led by its singer and main songwriter Bradford Cox is known for their noisy live show and Cox's abrasive stage presence. Also featuring drummer Moses Archuleta, guitarist Locket Pundt, bassist Josh Fauver (who had replaced original bassist Justin Bosworth who died from skateboarding injuries in 2004), and guitarist Colin Mee (who left in early 2008 and recently replaced by Whitney Petty). After 2004's self-titled debut that's also called Turn It Up Faggot, the band went on the road where in 2005, they recorded their second album that would give them the critical breakthrough. After a tour with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in late 2006, the album entitled Cryptograms was released in January 2007.
Produced by Chris Bishop with the songs written by the band with lyrics by Bradford Cox. Cryptograms is a unique album that mixes shoegaze, ambient, and no wave with Bradford Cox's unique lyrics ranging from dream-like experiences, mental illness, and other strange subjects from the unique singer/multi-instrumentalist. With five instrumental tracks and loads of strange songs, it's an album that is truly confrontational yet hypnotic. The result is one of the most fascinating releases of 2007 that is truly worth the critical buzz.
A near three-minute instrumental intro with layers of trickling water, croaks, and other noises that is followed by a warbling bass line and guitar feedback that starts to emerge as sounds of guitar and keyboard sirens start to arrive. The title track then appears to be accompanied with the same warbling bass line from the previous track with Moses Archuleta's sputtering drums that is followed by melodic guitar riffs from Locket Pundt and Josh Fauver's bass lines. With Bradford Cox singing through a distorted yet haunting vocal style, he sings very descriptive lyrics as the song starts to go into full, noise-rock mode with Pundt and Colin Mee's guitars. The song intensifies as Cox's vocals gets more intense as does the song. White Ink is a five-minute instrumental track appear after the water trickles start to fade with enchanting, shoegaze-inspired guitars emerging as it plays hypnotically with melodic plucks in the background.
Lake Somerset arrives with pounding bass lines by Fauver and distorted vocals by Cox for this bouncy, throbbing track with rhythmic drum tracks and jangly plucks from Pundt and Mee's guitars. Cox sings through his distorted vocals as Fauver's bass line throbs to the song's crashing, mid-tempo intensity as noisy guitars arrive with Cox still singing through undescribable lyrics as the song continues to intensify. Providence is another shoegaze-inspired instrumental with swooning guitars and washes that creates a moody, ambient tone that is hauntingly melodic and soothing as an acoustic instrument played by Cox is accompanying the main instrumentation as more trickles of water appear in the coda. Octet is an eight-minute track that opens with a hypnotic yet dreamy sound of keyboards, water, and guitar flourishes that is later followed by soft, pounding bass lines as it creates a bouncy rhythm that is accompanied by Archuleta's hi-hat taps. With wailing vocals in the background, the track begins to intensify as Cox starts to sing through his growling distortion of vocals as everything starts to come together with wavy guitars by Pundt and Mee.
Red Ink is another dream-inspired instrumental with xylophone chimes and bells by Cox that is accompanied by soothing, shoegaze-driven guitars as it creates a hypnotic tone with wavy guitars and keyboards to lead the entire track as it starts to create a fuzz-like sound. Spring Hall Convert is a haunting song led by melodic guitar plucks and Cox's soothing vocals that feature troubling, yet descriptive lyrics that is accompanied by its soft, yet pounding rhythm through the drums and bass. The song is probably the album's big standout as Cox's vocals reach into a soothing yet haunting quality along with its melodic guitar track as the rhythm guitar intensifies slowly to maintain its haunting rhythm. Strange Lights arrives with a fast washy guitar track and a bouncy rhythm led by a pounding bass line and mid-tempo drums as Cox sings with a clear yet double-tracked vocals through Chris Bishop's crisp production. Cox's descriptive vocals is filled with dreamy imagery as his vocals are purely hypnotic as it plays true to the song's shoegaze-inspired style.
Hazel St. opens with a melodic bass line by Josh Fauver as it creates a smooth yet momentum-building track for a bouncy rhythm with upbeat drums and melodic guitar riffs through plucking chimes and waves of noise. Cox's eerie vocals shine in the song as he sings descriptive yet haunting lyrics as the song maintains an ethereal yet hypnotic tone that is truly dream-like. Tape Hiss Orchid is a near, two-minute instrumental of guitar textures and soothing waves that is truly inspired by the shoegaze genre of the late 80s and early 90s. The album's closer is the haunting song Heatherwood that opens with a reverb guitar melody that plays out through the unique drum beat that is followed by shaking percussions. Cox sings with his dreamy vocals and haunting lyrics as he leads the way along with a bouncy bass line and melodic guitar plucks as Cox continues to sing as he sings the words, "Was not seen again" as those words close out the album.
With Chris Bishop's crisp yet layered production the album is truly one that has the band creating a unique sound that isn't overly pretentious, doesn't stray into bloated, art-rock pretenses. Instead, it's an album that is truly haunting and adds a tone that is soothing yet dream-like. The result is truly solid as Cryptograms along with Fluorescent Grey EP is a record that is just amazing to hear in an age where most bands just try to create the most endearing, polished piece of music to be played on radio. What Deerhunter does is take the sound of British shoegaze and add a bit of noise and atmosphere that's more in touch with American indie rock for something is extremely unique. In the end, Cryptograms is an album that must be heard and Deerhunter proves that they got a bright future ahead of them.
Deerhunter Reviews: Fluorescent Grey EP - Microcastle - (Weird Era Cont.) - Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP - Halcyon Digest
Related Reviews: (Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Deerhunter/Imaad Wasif-Atlanta, GA Tabernacle 10/14/06) - NIN/Deerhunter-Duluth, GA Gwinnett Arena 8/13/08 - (Atlas Sound-Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel) - (Atlas Sound-Logos) - (Lotus Plaza--The Floodlight Collective) - Deerhunter-Atlanta, GA Variety Playhouse 10/1/10
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