Halcyon Digest and Deerhunter, some thoughts

I don’t listen to too many rock bands that are currently active–it’s just not something I’ve been following for awhile.  But, perhaps in part because of their early, noisier work, Deerhunter is one of the few.  And they consistently surprise me by being both fresh and familiar.  There are so many elements of Deerhunter’s music and general ethos that are simply unique.  There’s the ever-developing physical and mental persona of Bradford Cox, of course, but there’s also this consistency in the use of simple musical and production concepts, added tastefully in every case, that make the music engaging and knowable.  And maybe it’s this familiarity, in part, that makes the music so cool.
And so it is with “Halcyon Digest,” released just this week.  Layered acoustic guitars, reverbed vocals, digital delay washes, and cut-time beats.  Enigmatic, occasionally devastating vocals, melodramatic but hardened.  They’re all simple things, but they add up to this unmistakable hole.
The problem with such recognizable elements might be that, after awhile, you kind of know what you’re getting.  Which makes this album sound at times like a continuation of “Microcastle” or, to a slightly lesser extent, “Rainwater Cassette Exchange.”  The music exists on a clear and smooth continuum without major disruptions–there’s a musical trajectory that seems like it has to be followed to its conclusion.
And that’s the magic of Deerhunter and Cox–he’s so much himself all the time that there’s no room for anything else.  And that’s, well, distinctive and cool, and something I, and I suspect many others, appreciate.

About Travis Bird

New Orleans musician and writer
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