Deerhunter - Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Deerhunter - Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2019-01-18
Deerhunter - Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?
Deerhunter - Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?

Deerhunter are still one of the most difficult musical acts to define, genre-wise. Nothing in current music sounds like Deerhunter. Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen put it best when he reviewed their last album Fading Frontier: “If there isn’t a Deerhunter sound, there’s a Deerhunter perspective that runs through their work.” It’s true. No two records sound alike, and the band has made so many left and right turns throughout the course of their existence that it’s become impossible to really pin down what they sound like.

With the release of Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, the band’s eighth studio album, the above statement becomes even truer. Never ones to balk at change, Disappeared is a continuation of the elements used in Fading Frontier, Halcyon Digest, and Microcastle, but coupled with the grinding, coarse edges of Monomania and Cryptograms. In the studio this time though, the band’s added Cate Le Bon, the Welsh singer-songwriter known for her solo work, as well as DRINKS, her collaboration with White Fence’s Tim Presley (who also contributes to the record). Their efforts together are vast and ride a strong wave of Americana – something evident from their Instagram diaries that showed visits across small-town America.

“Death in Midsummer” opens the record, and its harpsichord laced piano keys pave the way for a Velvet Underground-inspired sound. And while there’s no discernible throwback to Lou Reed, Cox has always felt like an amalgamation of Bowie and Reed, and “Death in the Midsummer” is a conglomeration of those two sounds. It pounds but sways, thanks to the assisted production of Ben H. Allen, a frequent collaborator. It even lends itself to the noisy past of the band, with a reverb-drenched bridge, while Moses Archuleta’s pulse-thumping snares get more rapid.

The band transitions smoothly into “No One’s Sleeping,” the first reference to the theme of Disappeared, “No one’s sleeping, great unrest. In the country, there’s much duress.” But Cox isn’t saying this like he’s the answer, instead, he’s mocking those who tell you to follow the golden boys. Just as the last track incorporated the VU-influence, “No One’s Sleeping” is a Kinks-inspired jaunt, with references to The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, and a thunderous drum pounding from Archuleta before breaking into an outro like Fading Frontier’s sweeter notes. Peculiarly, they segue into “Greenpoint Gothic” a 2-minute instrumental, which extends the sounds of “No One’s Sleeping” but turning it synth.

One thing Cox has never been short on is imagery, and “Element” is the prime example of that on the first half of the record, and while the chorus’ monotone delivery might feel like a swerve, Cox is still in control and brings it all back around. “What Happens to People?” answers the question everyone’s been too worried to ask, and Cox’s lays out the results on the surface – “they fade out of view,” “they quit holding on,” “their dreams turn to dark.” If ever there was a truer answer to Make America Great Again, I don’t know what it is.

Up to this point, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? has kept to its rails well. The record shifts with “Detournement” though, a throwback to Cryptograms style experimentation, but still like nothing they’ve done before. Its synth background highlights Cox’s exaggerated voice, something he hasn’t done this decade. For this album cycle, the band did things very opposite – they played most of these live before recording them, something they haven’t done since pre-Halcyon Digest. Fans who caught them on their 2018 tour have heard half this record, and old-school fans already adore “Detournement” because of how it stands out from the rest of the record.

“Futurism” has a classic Deerhunter vibe and uses instrumentals for its chorus which is rare these days. But again, Deerhunter has never shied away from doing things unconventionally, and “Futurism” is further proof with its classic rock guitars, tambourine, and plodding vocal delivery by Cox. The unconventional continues with “Tarnung,” which features our only evident guest spot from Cate Le Bon harmonizing with Lockett Pundt (his only singing on the record), but up to this point Disappeared has had all its cylinders firing, and “Tarnung” just feels like an unnecessary palette cleanser. It’s a beautiful track nonetheless, with its horns and atmospheric tendencies.

The last two tracks will make or break the record for most. The James Dean-narrated “Plains” might be the most left field I’ve heard from Deerhunter, at least for its first 45 seconds, and then feels right at home in the Deerhunter catalog. “Nocturne” is the proper closer to Disappeared, and perfectly sums up the record’s disposition. The sputtering vocals over organs and synths are jarring, but if you’ve ever listened to an Atlas Sound record or Monomania, this should be familiar territory. It spins and winds around the outer edges of Deerhunter territory just as it should and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

It should come as no surprise that Disappeared is their most complex work since Halcyon Digest and features a theme that others have tried with more directness. Disappeared is at the very thinnest a political record, but not in the sense that Bradford Cox is screaming at the powers that be, but instead he hones in on questions no one’s asking. And maybe no one wants the answers, but Deerhunter have never had conventional pathways to their sound, they’ve matriculated their craft to a more universal appreciation – even if their music has thus far been the mid-level indie rock scene that’s starting to wane.

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