Review Summary: Destroyer springs back from a brief hiatus with one of the year’s most compelling
The easiest, most art-schooly comparison to begin a review of Archer on the Beach
with would be a romanticization of some glorious picture of a phoenix rising from its ashes. Unfortunately, this would be unfair. We have a much more understated, exquisite product at hand. Destroyer, comprised of Dan Bejar, a Canadian with superfluous musical connections in the biz, pledged to be done with music a little while ago. For a man that’s created indie-pop epics like the lovely Destroyer’s Rubies
, a true treasure to anyone lucky enough to have known it, and contributed to the New Pornographers, this was a true loss... but here we are. The man is still creating touching, profound tunes, and in this case he has the help of ambient troubadours Tim Hecker and loscil by his side. Altogether, the two songs flow well into a concoction of melancholy, self-loathing, and loneliness through the subtle ambience, and still manages to become truly dazzling at some points through Bejar’s spoken-word. Prepare for an interesting adventure into a self-conscious work that won’t dazzle you with flames, but is all the better for it.
“Grief Point” was the first song recorded after
Destroyer returned to the studio. It shows. Not in the sense that he’s rusty, as Bejar is still a master of honing music to fit his agenda- the length, the tone, the underlying consciousness of his work which is, in this case, despair, is all perfectly orchestrated and under control. Bejar, without a doubt, picked this skill up from obvious influences Guided By Voices and Pavement. Instead, Bejar’s refreshing “newness” makes itself latent through the poignant lyrics of “Grief Point,” the second song, and the main feature. I’m afraid I only skim the surface of the 9 minute-long piece, but Bejar ponders and ponders, claiming, “I have lost a trust in music, it is horrible. I should only make things I understand, I should only make things I know how to construct, however imperfect.”
Or later, he goes as far to proclaim, “At some point, when it is made, I will explain this record, word for word, swear to god, I will know what is good and what is bad. The answer to the making of grief point is a picnic basket, filled with blood.”
I want to be put off by the utter pretension of it all, but I can’t. The lyrics, spanning most of the song, are absolutely compelling. Hell, I literally couldn’t type this review while listening to it because I would finding myself stopping only to listen more closely. That’s not something that happens every day.
Interspersed throughout “Grief Point,” making sure the pretension doesn’t strangle the song, are tiny, subtle, sound effects. The flick of a Zippo transports me to a scene right out of a Wes Anderson movie, the click
of a glass being set on the table breaks my concentration. Admittedly, the sound effects and lyrics become more prominent than loscil’s beautiful valley of a setting, which nestles a little too deeply into the background, but manages to do a wonderful job nonetheless. On “Archers on the Beach,” Hecker, ambient-extraordinaire, makes his presence known a little more powerfully, piano in tow. The first song is a tad less stimulating than “Grief Point,” but works as a wonderful complement to the its more engaging counterpart. Slower-paced and relaxing, “Archers on the Beach” is still a wonderful example of the capabilities of two musical-masterminds at work. Exquisite songwriting and a wonderful progression are prominent, as both loscil and Tim Hecker concoct dreamy, melancholic backdrops. His latest EP, with more twists and turns than a bag of pretzels, isn’t the best starting place for curious fans of the New Pornographers. Though, what Archers on the Beach
lacks in quantity and accessibility, clocking in at roughly 15 minutes, it makes up for in distinguished quality that only gives me more inner-conflict-- Am I more excited for Destroyer’s next full-length in January, or am I more compelled by the prospect of Archers on the Beach
truly setting in and latching on, as it has ample room to grow?