Dan Deacon - America

A supremely powerful album from a musician at the very top of his game.


American composer and musician Dan Deacon is a man for whom expressionism and ambition knows no bounds. Throughout his career, Deacon has carved out a reputation as something of a maverick, hard to pin down and even harder to categorize. Deacon’s music is a kaleidoscopic mix of frenetic electronica and pulverising sounds. It is a sometimes-awkward union of noise and pop constantly fighting against each other. His third full-length album sees these achieve a certain degree of harmony though, and the grandly titled ‘America’ is perhaps the best expression yet of Deacon’s immense talent and sometimes bonkers musical spirit.

This is a concept album of sorts, a response to the tumult the nation has faced over the last decade. The album veers wildly between noisy exuberance and a graceful dreamy calm with Deacon effortlessly combining all the facets of his creative mind that he has developed over the years.

The opening two tracks provide perfect examples of the album’s alternating sound. ‘Guilford Avenue Bridge’ is a hyperactive mass of electronic sound and drums with the tension constantly being ratcheted up to almost unbearable levels. The following track ‘True Thrush’ acts a release, a dreamy and reflective sigh featuring the first use of Deacon’s stark and pure vocals. It is this effect of power followed by understatement that characterises ‘America’.

In the time between 2009’s ‘Bromst’ and recording ‘America’ Deacon has devoted a large part of his time to immersing himself in classical music and film scores. You can clearly hear his burgeoning skills as a composer in many of the best moments here. Organic instruments are employed far more readily than in previous Deacon works and the swelling strings and horn crescendo’s that enliven the album give it a grand and extremely powerful effect.

It is hard to exactly work out what message Deacon is trying to portray about America as any lyrics are largely buried beneath a wall of sound. The underlying message is mostly portrayed through the music as it swells and falls, most particularly on the album’s centrepiece, the closing suite ’USA’. The four songs are wildly different yet supremely rousing and strangely celebratory; this is music far beyond Deacon’s early DIY days as a primitive sonic experimentalist. This is music that crosses rivers and canyons with boundless ambition.

As with all Dan Deacon albums, ‘America’ is a challenging listen and at times the sheer amount of things going on becomes a bit much, however it is also a supremely powerful album from a musician at the very top of his game.
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