ALBUM RELEASE: Deerhunter – ‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?’

WORDS BY KANE MARTIN      PHOTO BY LIA SUED

Polymorphic self-proclaimed “ambient-punks” Deerhunter return with their eighth studio album ‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared’, their first release since 2015’s ‘Fading Frontier’. Although not a drastic departure from their previous efforts, sonically there’s a melancholic sincerity which haunts the album. Upon listening, it feels as though you’re hearing a band quietly appalled with its national identity and the baggage that comes along with the task of writing about American topics. Despite its concerns, they don’t weigh the album down too much as the fizzing pop sensibilities Deerhunter are renowned for carrying the weight of their mournful lyrical content.  

 

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That being said this album is more than just Bradford Cox having a big bloody cry and holding a sign in the desert saying “I’m a sad boy – Trump is a muppet and I don’t like him that much” whilst a reverb-drenched drum-machine sound-tracks this terrible scene. It was recorded in the desert – Marfa, Texas to be exact – and co-produced by the ever-brilliant Cate Le Bon. The combination of these two aspects really lends themselves to the album’s attempt at defining a space. As no place lends itself as much to the mythology of America as the desert. Also, having Cate involved as an artist who is very aware of her cultural heritage and transferring that sonically without it being too “on the nose” is a transference Deerhunter attempt with this release and the results are spectacular.

With its album artwork which resembles the front cover of an out of print Frank Waters novel it opens with the harpsichord ridden lament ‘Death in Midsummer’, presumably a nod to the Yukio Mishima short story of the same name in which a decision to go on a family holiday results in the death of two children (cheery stuff). The twanging of harpsichords is achingly reminiscent of something that could be found in John Cale’s 1973 masterpiece ‘1919’. This borrowing from instrumentation similar to other classic ‘baroque rock’ concept albums from the ’60s and ’70s is prevalent on the album. For example, ‘No One’s Sleeping’ which deals with the sensitive subject matter of the murder of MP Jo Cox, yet conversely to its subject sounds like it could be off The Kinks’ ‘The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society’. The track even makes reference to this lyrically “the village green is now nocturnal”.

This borrowing from imagined pasts compliments certain instrumentation on the album which is influenced by borrowing from the other direction; the future. With the synthesizer sounds on ‘Greenpoint Gothic’ sounding like it’s from a Vangelis soundtrack to an abandoned existential late 80’s Sci-Fi movie. Whilst Cox’ and Lockett Pundt’s spaced out guitar-interplay dances a drunken, cosmic tango through all the albums tracks – a great sense of other-worldliness is created. The guitars themselves sound subliminally inspired by the great German Kosmiche bands of the ’70s, in particular, the work of guitarist Manuel Göttsching which creates great depth and a slight cosmological horror: like looking into a great unknown void.

What is achieved by mixing the sounds from fictionalised futures and pasts – blending imagined outer-space with a non-existent nostalgic rural-ism – is Deerhunter create a new way of discussing the present through song. This cutting and pasting of cultures could be described as détournement a phrase coined by the French Situationists of the 1950s. The phrase is also the title of the 6th track on the album making their cultural hijacking of using both fictional futures and pasts, central to the albums’ themes. This hijacking, as it were, allows a discussion of the present in which there’s an implication of what we’re currently experiencing is fiction which somewhat terrifyingly rings true if we linger on the thought of our post-truth digital age a little too long, which the album forces us to do.

‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared’, offers more questions then it does answers to where we are at the moment which is where I feel the album’s strength lies. It invites ruminations on some unsettling themes which quietly invite themselves in the form of brilliantly written pop songs. Like much of Deerhunter’s previous output it doesn’t expect you to say it’s a masterpiece on first listen. Rather, to fully “get it” one must live with it for a while until it reveals itself to you. I won’t tell you it’s an immediate masterpiece either, although I would highly recommend you get lost in the album for a while.

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