Deerhunter, Cryptograms, 2007

Cryptograms is introduced by a spacey three minute piece that tugs the listener from a mellow trance into another worldly atmosphere. A typical instrumental bit at the beginning of an album, but with an atypical lack of direction—unsure of whether the record will take on an indie, rock, or electronic vibe.

The rest of the album is nearly as odd as the band itself, including members: Josh Fauver (bass), Colin Mee (guitar), Moses Archuleta (drums + keyboards), and Bradford Cox (vocals + guitar). After recently touring with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs the foursome received alienating reviews—nevertheless many of the bullying journalists admitted to purchasing Cryptograms. Lead singer and guitarist Bradford Cox is constantly aced by reporters for his “obsessively” thin frame—a characteristic of Marfan Syndrome, which Cox is less than blessed to have. To top it all off, while recording Cryptograms, their original bassist, Justin Bosworth, died in a tragic skateboarding dilemma.

The first half of the album strays back and forth between pulsating and robotic vocals, “sounds of the rainforest,” and a wish-wash of melodies fashioned with noisy guitars and other melodramatic effects. Some of the tracks struggle to find an appropriate melody and this confusion is replaced by experimental-type foofaraw. These first few songs do not seem as if they would be fun to play, nor are they particularly inspirational.

Track eight, “Spring Hall Convert;” however, offers a more enlightening approach to their strange blend of sounds—a pleasing combination of soothing vocals, tone, and yes, melody—at least for the first minute or so. From here on the songs are more and more appreciable—functioning primarily on a reconstruction of vocals and reformatting of musical structure. An example of this is track ten, “Hazel St,” where the drums have enough room to develop a decent pace and melody and the guitars, which give off a borderline shoegaze edge, are represented just enough to drift in harmony with the other instruments. The last half of Cryptograms is hopeful of Deerhunter’s future—with less experimental-instrumental tracks that are used as transitions between songs rather than complete tracks themselves, increased use of vocals (with preferably more insightful lyrics), and more emphasis on developing their skills as musicians, rather than messing around with what they already know.

Don’t get me wrong—if Deerhunter and their debut, Cryptograms, was not worth listening to, then I would have never written a review for it. Deerhunter is simply a gem that needs polishing.

Review: Karoline Anderson

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