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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Rating: 8.7/10 ?

June 8, 2009
It's difficult for me to fathom Deerhunter coming out with new material, as their late 2008 twofer Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. still makes frequent spins in my player. Yet they keep going; currently in the middle of a European tour, Bradford Cox and Co. are back just months later with the Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP, recorded in February at Rare Book Room Studios in Brooklyn with Nicolas Verhes.

At this point I have to divide Deerhunter's collection into two separate eras, with the split occurring between the Fluorescent Grey EP and Microcastle. The bands earlier material, such as Cryptograms and Fluorescent Grey, tend to be highly abstract, self-deprecating, and quite sinister in nature. Microcastle was a noted departure from this material, as most the sounds are lighter and more sanguine. And while the lyrics are still quite despondent ("Agoraphobia" relays Cox's wish to be buried alive), the new stuff retains a newly pleasant-sounding tone throughout. This new sound isn't necessarily better music, but it may indeed captivate a larger audience. Rainwater falls into this latter category, as do most of the tracks indicative of the Microcastle era.

The first song and title tune is a funky, simple track that starts with a strange and airy vocal harmony by Cox, embedded with a smooth guitar riff. Despite Cox's per-usual melancholy lyrics, the overall feel of the song is unusually charming. The track is one of their most original, with the band consistently finding fresh and compelling sounds that snuggle nicely into their fast-growing catalogue.

"Disappearing Ink" starts with an attractive drumbeat by Moses Archuleta, and quickly morphs into an enthralling, all-out burner. If there was one track on Rainwater that most resembles their earlier style, this would be it. It seems that Cox is describing a bad night out or a failed relationship, and the song ends with him repeating, "What was I thinking?" over and over.

By contrast, "Famous Last Words" is confident and catchy, almost as if they know they have the listener hooked on this one from the outset. The distorted lyrics mesh well with the sharp guitar and consistent rhythm, if only for the couple minutes the tune lasts. The more innovative "Game of Diamonds" starts with intricate bongos beat that loop throughout, synthesized with rich guitar and light cymbals that will have you tapping your fingers. The natural lyrics by Cox are gripping, as they inject the song with raw emotion, and for a brief three minutes and fourteen seconds we get to hear Bradford Cox unrestrained and vulnerable.

The EP ends with "Circulation," a five-minute thrust of intensity, something which Deerhunter does exceptionally well. In scope and sound, the track reminds me of "Nothing Ever Happened" on Microcastle. However, the song seems to be an omen for the band as well: the last couple minutes are dubbed over by someone flipping between radio stations, attempting to find something they enjoy, seemingly analogous of Deerhunter's status as a Band of the Moment. Rainwater Cassette Exchange certainly finds creative ways to transform their music and expand their already impressive catalogue, even if most of the songs are quite short and leave the listener yearning for more. But perhaps that is exactly what Deerhunter wants.

Reviewed by Brian Christopher Jones
A student living in Scotland and working toward a PhD in law.

See other reviews by Brian Christopher Jones



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