Friday, April 8, 2011

Kaputt - Destroyer (Spring Albums 2011)


Merge Records.

SCQ Rating: 79%

I’ve never quite known what to make of Dan Bejar. His Destroyer catalog, while prolific and inimitable, has always held me at arm’s length because of the man’s idiosyncrasies. Yes, his songwriting is accomplished and his lyrics pursue grand narratives but I’ve found that those quirks – which largely define him as an artist – also distract us from a considerable shortcoming: Bejar can’t sing with any traditional persuasion. Still, he’s a master of the stylistic shift and his latest, on Kaputt, naturally suits his verbose delivery and fey lilt.

Composed of atmospheric saxophone, infectious drum-machines and a seemingly limitless variety of synths, Kaputt induces a sonic world worthy of exploring. One can almost feel the neon glow of Bejar’s downtown and, since the record operates via an unmistakable 80s lens, it’s a setting rife with drugs and sex. These influences sit in the backdrop for the most part, referenced occasionally just to feed Bejar’s restlessness in advance of a night out. And that’s just what Kaputt scores so well: that anticipation before wandering out into the polluted air of a Saturday evening. Although the percolating bass lines and sax elevate ‘Chinatown’ and the title track in this respect, even the more atmospheric slow-burners (‘Suicide Demo For Kara Walker’, with its flute lead and all) feel apt for apartment-dwelling in advance of hitting the bars.

Kaputt isn’t a complete departure for Destroyer but its focus on sound does admirably marginalize some of Bejar’s frivolities. And I have to hand it to him; in both his crooning and lyrical choices, Bejar flawlessly compliments the shape-shifting nature of this project. Yet it’s the freshness of these atmospheric appeals that make this record so loveable.

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