Review Summary: Quite possibly the most overlooked album of 2007, Deerhunter’s latest release, Cryptograms, is a dissonant and yet infectiously catchy release.
Standing there with a frail framed body, in all of his (at the time her, with a lovely Sunday dress) glory, the awkwardly placed vocalist began to mesmerize the crowd. Meanwhile, the bassist decided to pull one out of the “how to be cool” textbook by smoking a cigarette during the performance while putting out wonderfully smooth riffs. As the guitars began strumming an ambient noise, the sound translated into a harmonic masterpiece that infiltrated the air while the drumming was the heartbeat of it all. This was my first encounter with Deerhunter. Regardless of how strange it looked on stage (lead singer, Bradford Cox's outfit, mainly) the sound was something else, something more, and something I finally understood after listening to their latest full-length album, Cryptograms.
Their album contains hazy dissonant tracks like, Intro, Red Ink, White Ink, and Providence, that swirls into a daze similar to a Sonic Youth noise track. In addition, a daze that you may not get out of, that is of course if you do not listen to the latter songs. After each mystifying track that is primarily noise (tracks one, three, five, seven), there shines a beautiful sound to come. Starting with the track Cryptograms, one of the many catchy songs that are smooth and relaxed, yet laced with a strong bass line. In fact, for the majority of the album, it is a completely relaxed mood, followed by bursts of energy with each chorus sung. With each verse or chorus that passes, eerie vocal work hovers over every note. This can go hand and hand with the first half of the album that tends to be a bit on the slower side as far as pacing. A main reason is primarily the dissonant and yet subtly melodic tracks butting in between songs; yet it still maintains its composure. In spite of everything, it is hard to miss tracks like Lake Somerset and Octet anyway. After all, both songs contain gorgeous, clean guitar riffs that intertwine the pulsating beats and smooth bass lines that create a moving atmosphere. That same atmosphere flows into Red Ink, which has a fantastic ending, which is the prelude for the album to build momentum.
After which, the truly accessible tracks are embedded at the end of the album, starting with Spring Hall Convert and Strange Lights, which push the likes of indie pop at times with their upbeat manner and catchy riffs. More so, the sound of Strange Lights reminds me of a tiny band named Of Montreal with its pop attitude. The dazzling clean vocal work and lively instrumental work creates a saga of a continual ending when the volume stays the same until it finally, and abruptly fades out. In addition, the difference in sound from the first half infers a question of whether the mood within the band changed or they simply stored away a well-kept secret of their musical endeavors. Hazel St. and Heatherwood are no different in their agenda of ripe enjoyment with the use simplistic and effective guitar work. It is hard to believe the unparallel sound between the two halves of the album, it is reminiscent of a fog leaving a bay that is usually streaming with liveliness.
To be perfectly honest, this album was tough to get through at first listen. It was not until my undivided attention was given that everything came together into a collection of hidden beauty. Cryptogram’s contains songs with an unreal accessibility when compared to the noise-oriented tracks that bleakly began the album. However, that is a good thing. After all, as of late too many albums cannot maintain their stamina throughout an entire time span when Deerhunter manages to build something stronger as the minutes elapse. On a final note, the album ends with lyrics muttering, ‘…was not seen again,’ which could be fitting if Cryptograms does not catch on soon to the music community. I hope that phrase turns to irony when it is seen again, and again, for a long time to come.
Rating: weak 4.5
Spring Hall Convert, Heatherwood, and Cryptograms can be found at: