Plumbiferous Media

Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter

Oct 3rd 2010
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Halcyon Digest - DeerhunterDeerhunter
Halcyon Digest
Score: 53

Ambient indie band Deerhunter released its fourth album Halycon Digest at the end of last month. With a list of former band members that both eclipses its list of current band members and is close to as numerous as the number of years the band has been active, it is unsurprising that Deerhunter’s sound on Halycon Digest is fairly fragmented. Most noticeably, tracks on the album stray from truly interesting to absolutely abysmal, and most tend towards one end of the spectrum or the other, leaving very little in the middle.

A significant issue with the entirety of Halycon Digest is the lack of diversity in instrumentation. Even as Deerhunter experiments with quite a few styles and genres, it’s hard to ignore Deerhunter’s tendency towards simple, synth heavy lines. Part of that is the mediocre recording job that makes the synth really pop out as what it is, rather than acting as an immersive element, but that’s simply another fault with the album.

Cox’s voice is quite fluid on Halcyon Digest – sometimes nearly smothered in ambient waves, other times frank and bright – with varying degrees of success. Sometimes (and in the best moments of Halcyon Digest) Cox does a commendable job carrying along the tone of the music as a whole, but far too often he instead falls into a tone that does little but drag on. Many times, it’s that sort of failure to progress that detracts from Halcyon Digest, preventing its good moments from being truly great and making its worst moments largely miserable.

Deerhunter has an interesting way of writing lyrics – more of a stream-of-consciousness from the mind of Bradford Cox than any sort of traditional approach. This certainly shows, though in a mix of ways. Often, Cox’s approach comes out well, as with “Desire Lines”, Cox’s slightly existential take on life: “When you were young / And your excitement showed / But as time goes by / Does it outgrow?” Occasionally, however, we’re left with nonsense, like “Memory Boy”‘s “Did you stick with me / Let me jog my memory / I see you leaving / Oh don’t forget your TV” – unsurprising given the method of writing, but nonetheless disappointing when compared to some of Halcyon Digest‘s other lyrics.

While “Memory Boy” can easily be faulted for its lyrics, it does have the redeeming quality of being one of the most interesting tracks on Halycon Digest – unlike any track that follows it. So then again, as meritable as the track is on its own, it does have the unfortunate effect of making the lackluster tracks that follow it seem even less interesting. Equally unfortunate is the fact that those happen to be the final tracks of the album, the end result being a 45 minute album that sounds exceptionally long and drawn out.

Halcyon Digest is an odd album – not so much in content as in the way it’s put together. Deerhunter has managed to put together an album that skips between exceptional and pedestrian, stimulating and dull, without once stopping in between. The question, then: how much of the success, or indeed failure, of Halcyon Digest is due to that sort of constant inconsistency? In the end, it both helps and hurts the album. It’s hard for Halcyon Digest to be a really great album, given the way it happily skips between strikingly excellent and mediocre sections. At the same time, however, it’s that same inconsistency that sometimes keeps the album interesting. Unfortunately, there’s just too much of the mediocre to overlook, and so that’s how Halycon Digest ends up; a shame given the band’s potential.

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