It would have been all too easy for Dan Deacon to continue to play the Day-Glo huckster, leading dance parties with his glowing green skull and Woody the Woodpecker samples, and living off the novelty of his 2007 breakthrough, Spiderman of the Rings. And who could blame him: Dance-music careers have been built on less. But Deacon didn’t go to musical conservatory for nothing. He follows up Spiderman of the Rings with Bromst, a relentlessly distinct, densely constructed and immensely rewarding album.
Bromst is still teeming with the communal party vibe that Deacon is known for, but everything is multiplied by ten. Moving and shaking tracks like “Red F,” the shattered “Surprise Stefani,” the crackling “Woof Woof,” and the glittery “Baltihorse” are dance music on steroids -- galloping like music created by an army of musicians when Spiderman of the Rings played like a dance album created on a computer by a single man (which it was).
That’s where Bromst most differs from Deacon’s past works. A lot of the sounds were created by many tiers of live percussion, live pianos, and more live instrumentation in general than Deacon has used in the past. Throughout Bromst, Deacon piles melody upon melody upon melody on these tracks, demanding that the listener parse out what bits matter to them. Opener “Build Voice” does just that, as Deacon layers buzzing and droning synth figures over his untouched vocals that shout out alone at the beginning of the track. Album centerpiece, “Snookered,” begins with somber glockenspiel before Deacon is throwing the kitchen sink on the track, layering fuzzy bass, pounding drums, and skittering vocals adding harmony to his down and out lines about being screwed. It’s Deacon’s defining song to date -- it sums up everything the guy does great -- but also shows that there’s room to grow in the musical constructs he’s built.
The most noticeable thing about Bromst is that there’s nothing like it. There are some traces of a lot of avant garde music here -- the minimalism of Steve Reich, the repeating figures of Philip Glass, and Brian Eno’s soundsculpting -- but Bromst stands apart from a lot of what you’ll hear this year. You’d typically have to go to the outré classical scene for music like this; instead, Deacon is on a wide-circulating indie label.
Bromst annihilates all the expectations that have come to be expected of Deacon, without abandoning what made him everyone’s favorite dance-party czar. He rose to the challenge of following up a well-received album by making an album that is both stronger and more gratifying, and one that will easily count among the year’s best.
Baltimore’s Dan Deacon is a linchpin in that town’s burgeoning music scene: he founded the arts collective Wham City, organizes the annual sold-out DIY music festival Whartscape and even conceived the recent 30-band tour of Baltimore acts, the Baltimore Round Robin Tour. On his follow up to 2007’s well-received “Spiderman of the Rings,” he offers more of the uncompromising electronic dance music that’s earned him positive notices in Rolling Stone and on Pitchfork. The disc’s lead-off single, “Get Older,” is emblematic of the album’s driving, kinetic energy, with its frantic synth line and pounding beats. Along the way, Deacon throws in so much instrumentation (glockenspiel, vibes, brass), you’d think he went to a music conservatory or something. Actually, he did!