Elevate Difference

Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Deerhunter's latest album, Rainwater Cassette Exchange, is just five songs in fifteen minutes. Five songs perfectly placed and executed, there is nothing superfluous and nothing lacking. The five-piece group creates an experimental synthesis of noise pop, shoegaze and psych rock to produce an incredibly refreshing and complete masterpiece.

Rainwater Cassette Exchange is vivid, mesmerizing and transcendent. Ethereal vocals and fuzzy guitars coalesce with heart-pumping bass lines as they transport the listener to another world. The band draws on bells, slide guitars, organs, synths, theremins, and more to produce a disorienting and stunningly beautiful sound.

Ghostly echoes and ambient reverb are offset by dark lyrics charged with raw human struggle. When singer Bradford Cox asks, "Do you believe in love at first sight?" the response is taunting resignation: "Oh yes my son, I did before I died. And now it does me no good on the other side." The vocals are sweetly hypnotic, but they are also foreboding and tormented.

While it seems impossible to choose a favorite, "Disappearing Ink" is one of the best tracks on Rainwater Cassette Exchange. The song fearlessly drives the album with untiring guitar riffs, pulsating bass lines, slurring vocals and airy moans. Despite using disappearing ink, "the words still sting." The song leaves no room to escape the inevitability of pain and suffering. Thrashing drums finish the song with a naked moment of self-loathing, "What was I thinking? What was I thinking?"

Each song on this album cleverly develops complex themes of impermanence, mortality, futility and our susceptibility to life's merciless unpredictability. Cox gives us a taste of his own experience struggling with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by abnormally long limbs and a proneness to heart disease.

What's truly gripping about this album is that with each listen, there is something new. What at first sounds distorted and chaotic becomes deliberate and clear. What sounds encouraging and optimistic is fraught with conflict and distress. There is something in these carefully crafted songs, traversing the gamut of competing human thoughts and emotions, that is both disturbing and cathartic. The depth and complexity of each song make every listen better than the last.

Deerhunter has composed an album that intoxicates listeners as it gracefully navigates beyond contradictions. It is upbeat and drenched in anguish. It is confident and exposed. It is both deer and hunter.

Written by: Sofia Marin, September 28th 2009