Release Date: Feb 24, 2015
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
What comes across as effortless whimsy often circulates through the inner workings of Dan Deacon’s brain for hours. During a recent interview, the iconic Baltimore-based producer opened up about a stress addiction where he “liked to do the most logistically impractical things, like adding 20 people to my band and touring on a bus that runs on garbage, just to create situations that were impossible. I was addicted to the stress and the adrenaline and not even appreciating what I get to do, and that resulted in a lot of anxiety and confusion about my work.” Gliss Riffer is a reaction to that realization.
After the creative maturity and ambition of 2012's America, Dan Deacon may appear to have taken a step back with his 2015 effort Gliss Riffer, which abandons the orchestrations and the more thoughtful mood of that album for a more explicitly pop-oriented vision, dominated by the playful clatter of sequenced beats, the buzz and sweep of dozens of vintage keyboards, and layers of vocals that have been vocodered into vintage sci-fi timbres or pitch-shifted into distant relatives of Alvin Chipmunk. And it is the vocals that truly stand out on tracks like "Sheathed Wings" and "Meme Generator," where Deacon's aggressive use of processing turns them into instrumental components in the music, not merely lyrics that float over the top. Not to say the words don't count on Gliss Riffer; "When I Was Done Dying" and "Learning to Relax" make it clear Deacon is a more intelligent and introspective lyricist than one might expect at first glance, and the looped chorus of "Happiness takes time, and time is my life, and I have no time, and I'm still alive.
Dan Deacon doesn't do things by halves. The Baltimore-based electro producer has spent a career throwing himself into grey-matter clattering sonic spectrums that sound like they've been rewired by some madcap genius inventor. A half-assed Dan Deacon record simply doesn't exist. Neither does a dull one.
Following the musical heights reached on 2012's America, Dan Deacon decided to pursue a "less is more" approach when it came to writing a new record. Foregoing his interests in orchestral arrangements and the use of acoustic instruments, Gliss Riffer was produced and recorded with next to no outside help, as he did on 2007's independently composed and executed Spiderman of the Rings. Despite their sonic similarities, Deacon's fourth full-length has struck an amicable balance between the hyperactive energies and extravagant compositional ideas prevalent in his earlier work.A sense of exuberance runs throughout the record, which listeners will undoubtedly find familiar.
Like us, Dan Deacon has probably lost count of the number of his releases over the past decade. Unlike many of his contemporaries, however, his music is not necessarily serial. ‘Gliss Riffer’ is just as stupendously mad as a standalone than in comparison with previous works, and demonstrates Deacon’s mind-boggling ability to find order, and not only that, but brilliance, in sheer chaos.
American composer and producer Dan Deacon is a pop maverick, impossible to characterise and even harder to pin down. The sonic alchemist is someone for whom the power of creation and expression holds no bounds; every new song and new project is the opportunity for reinvention and a chance to take things even further. It’s an opportunity he grabs with open arms on his fourth album Gliss Riffer.
Dan Deacon is a self-confessed weirdo who sits at the edge of pop and experimentation: not strange enough for the avant garde, yet not straight enough for the mainstream. His fourth album, Gliss Riffer, continues that singular journey and coerces elements of pop and madcap electronica into a convincing mix. He manages moments that sound like Grandaddy’s trucker-cap whimsy (Learning to Relax) and others that are closer to bonafide one-offs Matmos (Mind On Fire).
Dan Deacon's Gliss Riffer opens with a gentle rhythm—a delicate, swaying synth effect washing over tabla-esque hand drums—which lasts four measures before being flattened by a churning, half-time industrial beat. This kind of adversarial back and forth continues throughout the album, the basis of a bricklaying approach in which harsh sounds are piled atop soft ones in stratified layers, each track accumulating elements as it progresses. Deacon isn't one for variation, at least not in terms of song structure.
Baltimore resident Dan Deacon may well be most renowned for his live performance parties and childlike enthusiasm for audience participation, but, leaving his work as a next level fun-engineer aside he’s also a rare, modern renaissance dude. Sine wave experimentation, video collage, modern classical composition and film scoring are all part of Deacon’s coat of many colours; he also releases expansive, euphoric electronic albums such as 2012’s glorious America; an exploration of Deacon’s mixed emotions and opinions towards the country that spawned him. This time around intentions are perhaps not quite so overarching, Deacon creating the whole of Gliss Riffer as an entirely solo project and largely confining himself to the structural tropes of modern pop.
It's been almost a decade since Baltimore singer/songwriter and electroacoustic composer Dan Deacon made his breakthrough with Spiderman of the Rings, but it feels like longer. The album recalls a time when flamboyance and uncouth goofiness was close to the rule in indie rock, and the possibility that Sade would be a frequent comparison point for new, buzzworthy artists felt remote. On subsequent releases, Deacon has put lustrous new coats of paint on the noisy and ambitious electro-pop sound he prototyped on Spiderman (and to a lesser extent, his earlier, more overtly experimental Carpark releases), shifting inspiration points and performing forces, but not his fundamental aesthetic.
Sorry, but Dan Deacon is not your own private Zappa. Press everywhere wants to paint Deacon as the Wham City weirdo who decided to grow up, having transcended the novelty of “Drinking Out of Cups” to become a serious musician, distracting people with his childlike sense of whimsy with album titles like Spiderman of the Rings while creating immaculately-constructed pop songs that hit your brain’s pleasure center time and time again. Deacon’s music isn’t designed to convince you that he’s the smartest boy at the pop music academy, nor is it mere novelty ear candy (even if it’s often consumed as such).
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Peruse, if you will, the press release that accompanied the announcement of Dan Deacon's Gliss Riffer late last year. You'll notice that our attention is frequently and unambiguously guided towards the role this record is intended to play within his body of work. That is, beyond being the Baltimore-based electronic musician's fourth studio album (and second released by Domino Records), Gliss Riffer has the great distinction of being his Most Personal Album Yet™.
The idea of a 'stripped back' Dan Deacon album isn't, frankly, the most appealing thing in the world. Having firmly established himself as one of electronic music's more engaging crafters, it's understandable to greet his move back to 'a simpler way of writing and recording' with some degree of trepidation. Then you stick on the first track of Gliss Riffer and kick yourself for doubting the guy.
On Gliss Riffer, Dan Deacon returns to his King of the Saturnalia mode, presiding over a death-defying 45 minutes of Spiderbromst of America in IMAX 3DD. That portmantitle is reductive, but Gliss Riffer does have a summary and (self-proclaimed) maximal feel to it. The coda to the album’s second video single “Learning to Relax” is a showcase of everything Deacon does best, all at once: glitchy, kitschy, chop-and-screw samplework; stuttering loops; phase-shifting MIDI player piano; repetitive vocoder vocals; sweetly airy synths; and ever-compounding harmonies all layered into bittersweet soundcake.
Bearded roly-poly Baltimore EDM dude Dan Deacon looks a little like a highly intelligent teddy bear — a perfect fit for his playful, complex music. Deacon's previous works have included the high-octane 2007 album Spiderman of the Rings and a mischievous remix of Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop." His latest features his own zonked singing on tracks like the loopy, Tom Petty-referencing elegy "Feel the Lightning" and the head-spinning backwoods goof "When I Was Done Dying." Deacon loves sweeping orchestrations, too — see his 2012 album America — and you can hear that side come out on "Take It to the Max," eight cascading minutes of keyboard mania that more than lives up to its title. .
Dan Deacon has found the comforts of life after death. Perhaps touring with Arcade Fire and making his Carnegie Hall debut was a jolt. Maybe the classical compositions of 2012's America widened his eyes. Whatever the case, Baltimore's ebullient electronic musician is once again, after 12 studio albums, testing his limits, but this time he's found a happy medium between dissonance and melody – and it's rolled up in a newfound yoga mat.
Dan Deacon’s latest eight-track album, his ninth, frees a refined craftsman from his dreams. The Baltimore-based artist spins an expansive web of bubbly and exotic percussion, complemented by vocal distortion, similar to his 2007 album, “Spiderman of the Rings.” But this time, the tracks are more nostalgic, incorporating reflective lyrics and orchestral elements inspired by his more recent albums, “Bromst” (2009) and “America” (2012). Opener “Feel the Lightning,” is delicate, poppy, and vocoder-enthused, animating death with haunting lyrics and light melodies.
The extremes of Dan Deacon's musical output produce polarized reactions in the experimental electronic circles and indie pop scenes he moves between. His hyperactive Nintendo-bubblegum tendencies can seem too silly to take seriously, while his expansive classical-influenced instrumentals can be overly serious for fans of his jubilant electro-pop-punk anthems. His last two albums found a balance by using more acoustic instruments, but on Gliss Riffer he returns to the electronics and processed helium vocals he originally made his name on, achieving cohesion along the way.
Dan Deacon probably had a vision of making an accessible album when he sat down to do Gliss Riffer. The first half of the record plays to the cheap seats, with slices of catchy, hummable melodies and baldly commercial vocals seemingly designed for maximum pop appeal. This isn’t shocking—Deacon has always been a populist, especially in his live shows—but it still feels a bit off-putting to hear the first single, “Feel The Lightning,” come across like the love child of Daft Punk and Todd Rundgren.
opinion byZACHARY BERNSTEIN < @znbernstein > Deacon’s ninth LP necessitates two entirely different listening experiences. Gliss Riffer’s soundscapes breathe with a panoramic rush that begs to be played at maximum volume, windows down, wind blowing by. Yet, the arrangements are remarkably dense, stacking layers of synths, bleeps, drums, and bass upon each other that could only be properly experienced through focused earbud exploration.
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