Fringe music is an elusive beast. Whereas the points of slick tales of love and loss are usually pretty obvious, the undercurrents of the avant-garde are infinitely harder to navigate. Enter your intrepid guide: Earplug. In this bi-monthly series, Flavorwire’s sister publication — home to several experimental, indie, and techno experts — will separate the hidden gems from the record bin rejects, helping the adventurous pluck new albums from the outer edges. After the jump, reviews of Baltimore bleeper Dan Deacon’s new electronic opus and the Knife off-shoot Fever Ray’s magnesium-bright debut.
Dan Deacon – Bromst The 82-piece orchestra in Baltimore composer Dan Deacon’s head blasts full-volume: aided by a cast of characters from So Percussion, Lexie Mountain Boys, and Ecstatic Sunshine, his new album is a scene-party of sorts. Boredoms-by-way-of-Baltimore opener “Build Voice” mashes Baba O’Reily synthesizers and layered voices with a squall redolent of a tweaked Tropicalia marching band. “Build” explodes the premise of Deacon’s Ultimate Reailty project. The Lexie Mountain Boys clock a nice break from the cartoon-ish din with “Wet Wings” — a cut-up Appalachian incantation hummable and haunting. Bromst races to finish with the pianophonic “Slow with Horns / Run for Your Life,” where a gaggle of high speed Steinways groove to an interlocking major key melody to make Terry Riley jealous. The final one-two of “Baltihorse” and “Get Older” epitomize Deacon’s crescendo rock–culminating in a fluorescent adrenaline Moog rush. Subtle, this ain’t, but no one ever accused fellow Charm City son John Waters of being understated either. – Marc Gilman
Fever Ray – Fever Ray On her debut solo effort, the Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson dials down the techno. Gone is the rush of gleaming arpeggios anxiously whizzing past or scaling brother Olof’s clotted throbs and shushing hi-hats. Instead, Fever Ray looms like jet-lag. Though Andersson sings of being a “capsule of energy” on “Dry and Dusty” for most of Fever Ray, she doesn’t crack open the gel casing to unleash the voltage. But synth chinoiserie (the floating chime refrains of “Triangle Walks” stand out) and noir atmospherics exotically fill out the new spaces availed by fewer beats. In Opener “If I Had a Heart,” Andersson communes in the same gelatinous pitched-down baritone that lurked in the darkest recesses of the Knife’s improbable 2006 breakthrough, Silent Shout. It’s the first voice heard, oozing over gooey glued-together tones. This androgynous, man-child moan, intones ominously “give me more / give me more / give me more” and its numbed grotesqueness befits the thumbnail surrealism of lyrics that find her in high heels amid a mossy Swedish forest with a boomerang in hand. Whether harmonizing with her succulently bassy doppelganger or just multi-tracking in her own natural range, Andersson maintains a feisty, faintly-deranged post-Björk wail, seemingly singing with clenched fists, but eschewing hysterics for hyper-alertness. This is electronic pop music after all (lest we forget Silent Shout went to number one in Sweden) and Fever Ray is bountifully tuneful. Effusing magnesium-bright melodies and woozily scrawled synth tidbits, it’s an intriguing mélange of warm breath and cold touch. Not quite a proper follow-up to Silent Shout, which fiendishly whipsawed between gargoyle blares and pent-up panic, Fever Ray is an placatory reminder that in the absence of new Dreijer/Dreijer material, at least one Knife member remains sharp. – Bernardo Rondeau