Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rainwater Cassette Exchange - Deerhunter

Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Kranky/4AD Records.

SCQ Rating: 70%

In last year’s review of Microcastle, I marveled at how the inexhaustible Deerhunter (and lead creative force Bradford Cox) had risen to the ranks of indie-princes within twenty months. With that double-record’s success and this Spring’s Lotus Plaza debut, I hardly expected I’d be introducing yet another addition to the Atlanta quartet’s ouvre, but this band is never one to pin down. Such a statement can be applied in more ways than one to Rainwater Cassette Exchange, the latest – and briefest - chapter in Deerhunter’s exceptionally young saga.

Where Cryptograms opened in found-sound collage, Fluorescent Grey EP with lone piano and Microcastle armed in wistful organ swansong, it’s almost a disappointment to hear the no-frills immediacy to ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’. Swampy and psychedelic, here’s a title track that follows the same pop progressions found on Microcastle… yet the results are looser, murkier, as if that the former's duality uncovered a new rabbit-hole to fall into. ‘Disappearing Ink’ tightens up significantly, obliterating their old shoegaze tags while – perhaps incidentally – referencing how distant their ambient pieces circa Cryptograms (like, um, ‘Red Ink’ or ‘White Ink’) feel next to this comparatively straight-ahead indie-rock.

Need I emphasize comparatively? Sure I do…; Deerhunter, at their most accessible, remain planets removed from your average meat’n’potatoes rock band. Yet as the band continues to flex their melody muscles, their songs become increasingly direct. Even the five minute ‘Circulation’ (which indeed consumes a third of Rainwater Cassette Exchange’s running-time, if that’s a sign) bares only the presence of its verse/chorus push and far-off television banter. The weight and uncertainty that loomed lovingly over Cryptograms and parts of Weird Era Cont. are entirely absent from this EP; an element more crucial to their sound than many might realize. Even though Rainwater… follows Microcastle as a similar appendix to how Fluorescent Grey tidied up Cryptograms, this five-song suite feels detached from the Deerhunter canon, in part because it lacks a left-turn, mostly because it lacks an identity.

Despite their meager size, each of these songs manage to fulfill themselves but, as a catch, you really need to listen closely to appreciate the passing details. As momentary a thrill as these tracks offer, you’ll also fight to authenticate Rainwater Cassette Exchange as more than simply “five new Deerhunter songs”. Such a buying incentive is a tough pill to swallow for fans, as we all remember how, just last year, a Deerhunter release meant so much more than that. Let’s pray for another left-turn somewhere in the fold.

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