Dan Deacon’s Gliss Riffer Riffs on Bliss

Like anyone hooked on synthesizers and process music’s slick layerings, I was aware of Dan Deacon‘s manic fueled soundscapes since 2009′s Bromst (admittedly jumping in to his music a bit late). His constant builds gave me songs perfect for road trips or getting ready to go out with friends. It wasn’t until late 2012 that I experienced his live show–a concert that changed how I thought about music and performing in general.

Dan Deacon’s live show adds an interactivity to his walls of noise-twinged melodies. Being apart of his performance (I can’t say anyone merely watched), I noticed a playfulness being pushed to the forefront of the sound waves, which compounded the tracks already fun play. While Deacon twitched knobs, combining and layering songs, the music began to breathe. It’s this feature that is captured most effectively in his latest Gliss Riffer.

From its electro-disco first track to its concluding washes of saw-toothed textures, Gliss Riffer reclaims the sort of manic-flamboyance that glittered Deacon’s early releases (a turn from America‘s lush but almost suffocating fullness). “Feel The Lightning” begins the album well–highlighting the pop elements while showing Dan Deacon’s further experimentation with creating airy swathes of atmosphere.

Gliss Riffer jumps between aural saturation and straight forward looped layering. An example of the latter would be the fourth song, “Meme Generator.” The song begins like a bassier iteration of Pogo’s Alice in Wonderland mash ups before Deacon layers choral-like synth below it. The glitched and hyper-corrected speech snippets create a rhythm that is complex but easy to follow as it unwinds into the track’s fattened drones.

“Meme Generator” leads perfectly into “Learning To Relax” (a song that sits closer to the aural saturation end of Gliss Riffer‘s aesthetic continuum). This progression is mimicked again and again throughout the album. That said, as Gliss Riffer moves to its end, even the poppier-sounding loops take on a saturated feel. It’s this organizational strategy that gives the album a lighter feel without having to sacrifice the beautiful walls of sound at the base of Deacon’s art.

The album ends with the one-two punch of “Take It To The Max” and “Steely Blues.” Both songs are some of the most accomplished tonal and rhythmic experiments Deacon has attempted thus far. They blend his penchant of layering rhythm samples over a harmonic drone with his constantly building toward some climax on the horizon. Its the same trope that made for the best moments in Bromst. Deacon takes these things and applies the density that made America the behemoth that it is.

View PostThe result might not culminate into easily danced to moments, but it does signal Deacon getting closer to perfecting his sonic formulas (which he will undoubtedly subvert or change in his next album). The final songs of Gliss Riffer offer a best of both worlds vibe–simultaneously playful and oppressive.

As always, a new album signals new tour dates. Since Dan Deacon’s live shows always pack an extra dimension into his already seemingly full sound, it will be interesting to see what angles he wrenches into Gliss Riffer. Unfortunately, Deacon has no tours to come through Kansas City any time soon. He does, however, have a date in Omaha on May 13 (at one of my favorite venues of all time). My advice: drive the three hours there and have your life changed.

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