Dan Deacon can make manic fans feel beat

April 02, 2009|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

By the time Dan Deacon released Spiderman of the Rings, his 2007 national critical breakthrough, he had already established himself as a manic performer.

His reputation stretched well beyond his base in Baltimore. The success of the album, which garnered kudos from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, brought on more opportunities to tour. Soon, thousands of artsy hipster types across the country filled Deacon's shows, where he often shunned the stage, turning his performances into goofy participatory events.

Almost cartoonish with its bouncy electronica beats and racing tempos, the music drove it all. Folks rolled on the floor or ran laps around the room. It was all led by Deacon, the profane musical court jester with the mile-wide grin and enormous glasses.

Two years later, the artist returns with Bromst, which was released last week. This time around, Deacon wanted to make a unified record that flows. He didn't want to be known as just the guy with the neon, off-kilter stage show.

"I wanted it to be an album that you listen to from start to finish. I realize that it's long and intense, but that's what I wanted it to be," says Deacon, who will perform at 11 p.m. Saturday at the sixth annual Transmodern Festival. "I think people are used to listening to music on shuffle or in the background. To them, it can seem very daunting or draining. Is it supposed to be an endurance test for the listener? No. It's like watching a play. There's a beginning, a middle and an ending."

Abuzz with artful noises and manipulated voices, Bromst is an artistic statement Deacon felt he had to make. He wanted the music to speak for itself outside the realm of performance, hence the nonsensical album title.

"I didn't want it to be something that when you put it into Google you find a thousand other things," the artist says. "I didn't want any preconceived ideas or attachments to it. I didn't want it to conjure up any imagery other than the record itself."

Unlike Spiderman, whose music was wrapped in flashy aural rainbows, Bromst is much darker. The album also melds elements of electronica and acoustic instrumentation, both of which Deacon studied at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College in New York before moving to Baltimore.

"I wanted to make music that was more dense and more intense, but at the same time more fragile and delicate, something that needed proper fidelity," says the artist, 27. "I realized I could use real instruments."

The addition of live drums and keyboards, for instance, enriches the tone and harmonic content.

"It adds slight imperfections that make things human," Deacon says. "That's why I think it's a more accessible record."

Well, somewhat more accessible. Although Bromst is more musical in scope than Spiderman, it still assaults the nerves. But with repeated listens, new layers unfold. For the Saturday night show and throughout the national tour supporting the new album, Deacon will underscore the musicality more. He will be performing with a 13-piece band.

"I don't think anything will be reduced from the show," Deacon says. "I just want to add to it. It'll definitely change the focus of the show and how the show is executed. But in regards to the audience, action parts and group activities, those will certainly remain."

Deacon may have gained national recognition for his artful electronica brew. But he certainly doesn't expect to become a mainstream sensation any time soon. His music is still too daring for current pop tastes.

That's fine with him.

"It's living in Baltimore. It's such a do-it-yourself city," he says. "The city is so [messed-up], you make do with the ruins within it. It's great for the music I do."

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