Deerhunter
Cryptograms


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
March 10th, 2010 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Was not seen again.

Listeners later connected hugely with Microcastle's more down-to-earth approach to alienation and suffering, but on 2007's Cryptograms, Deerhunter explored these same themes through aural dreamscapes and abstract (yet unmistakably artful) phantasms. It's arguable that this could potentially "mask" Deerhunter's intentions for some, letting the band's message dissipate in a smothering of ghost whispers and murky drones, but for those who listen closely and intently, in its detachment from normal musical habits, Cryptograms will successfully reveal its mystic powers again and again.

With "Intro", the album starts in a confused mist of sounds, ranging from pulsing bass notes to cricket noises to running water. The track, without introducing so much as a melody or hook, successfully builds tension straight into the title track, which introduces a wicked guitar line and frontman Bradford Cox's monotone musings ("My greatest fear, I fantasized / The days were long, the weeks flew by / Before I knew I was awake / My days were through, it was too late"). Cox (who, at surface level, appears to be an inherently "silly" frontman) reveals himself to be quite the dark poet here, his bleak meditations reinforced by the band's intense grooves. In addition to introducing Cox's unique brand of verse, the song also acts as an indicator (or, for some, a warning sign) of what's to come: even before the song thrusts itself into its overwhelming climax ("There was no sound"), the disorienting effect the song employs is already apparent, and those who can't take the heat have probably already put on something a little more calming.

With the possible exception of the stomping "Lake Somerset", the title track is the last thing that can be called a "rock" song for quite a while: from the drowned-in-sound guitars of "White Ink" to the repeating string motifs of "Providence", the period up until "Spring Hall Convert" is spent by the band indulging in sonics, culling from ambient, shoegaze, and psych-rock in equal measure. Normally, this section of the review would be dedicated to chastising the band for their lack of restraint, but the simple fact is that Deerhunter fail to make a wrong step throughout this "atmospheric" section of the album, maintaining an uneasy sense of beauty throughout. Even though, with the absence of vocals, these songs lack a clear lyrical direction, they hold the same dark power that songs like the title track do, demonstrating the band's skill in mood-setting.

The section of "rock" (excluding short ambient piece "Tape Hiss Orchid") songs that close off the album are no less noteworthy in their conveying of that same atmosphere. "Spring Hall Convert" utilizes what is essentially a simple four-chord pattern, but, through its use of dreamy production, lends itself to the shady aura that the rest of the album holds. "Strange Lights" is about as close as the album gets to a straightforward rock song, sounding almost like an early Lennon-McCartney song given a shoegaze twist, but, unlike "Spring Hall Convert", the song has an uncharacteristically uplifting mood, perhaps due to its otherworldly lyrics ("I walk into the sun / with you the only one").

On Cryptograms, Deerhunter did not create a record meant to be analyzed, as, say, Microcastle could be. However, that does not mean the album does not feel full or cohesive. Though it moves through many genres and ideas, Cryptograms feels like it keeps an air of desperation and inner turmoil about it. That they dress it up in such a magnificent sonic disguise just makes the whole package more appealing for us disaffected youth here.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15063 Comments


felt a wee bit strange writing this. too tbt?

danielewski
March 10th 2010


56 Comments


whack i got sum












POW!-er

SeaAnemone
March 10th 2010


20782 Comments


would I like this?

Digging: Dirty Beaches - Stateless

Enotron
March 10th 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes you would, my furry little rabbit friend.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15063 Comments


get microcastle & this together id say just because opinion can be very divided on which is better

danielewski
March 10th 2010


56 Comments


microcastle duh but this is still sicckcckc

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15063 Comments


'microcastle duh' used to be me, but now it's close. microcastle still wins, but it's definitely a closer race than it used to be. i think i just appreciate them in different moods

danielewski
March 10th 2010


56 Comments


they are close but uh

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15063 Comments


dont you but uh me mister

SeaAnemone
March 10th 2010


20782 Comments


i love microcastle with most of my < 3

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15063 Comments


oh well duh yeah get this. i mean theyre very different but if you really liked micro then definitely pick this one up

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15743 Comments


but to what end robertsona, that's what I ask. but to what end???

your review doesn't draw any conclusion, instead reading like a bunch of faux-hipster babbling song descriptions you aped from reading too many pitchfork reviews without an indication of why it's good they sound the way they do.


SeaAnemone
March 10th 2010


20782 Comments


______________*






*trite "Downer" joke goes here

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15063 Comments


downer is right he just explained what i didnt know was wrong (see: my first comment on this review)

ill fix it, right now im adding a paragraph and if i see some other stuff i can do to fix that problem i will

Enotron
March 10th 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fuck that, Alex. Stick it to the man(the man being=Downer) and tell him to save his pitchfork/hipster babbling for a Joanna Newsom thread.

Naw, but seriously the album doesn't really have some sort of deeper meaning or have some figurative representation of some idea or musical theme. It's just a really dreamy, trippy indie rock record.

edit: The irony being that all my reviews have what was described above, excluding my most recent.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15063 Comments


made some heavy changes; still unsure about it overall. anyone want to read again? ;D

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15743 Comments


Naw, but seriously the album doesn't really have some sort of deeper meaning or have some figurative representation of some idea or musical theme.


that wasn't my point

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15063 Comments


i think that was directed at me since i hinted at it in the review

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2010


15743 Comments


oh i thought he was countering my criticism of the review. It's basically the same critique i gave you in your strawberry jam review but worded more harshly because this review seems more... purposeless? like you just picked up the album for the sake of reviewing it.

Enotron
March 10th 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No, I wrote the comment before your revision. I'm just saying that Cryptograms is hard to analyze beyond the realms of describing the songs and the atmosphere and sound they create. If his writing is good enough, why it sounds good should be apparent.



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