There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
There is no better summation of the contradiction that is Dan Deacon than a fish-eyed crowd shot that someone snapped during his set at this past year’s Coachella Festival. In it, a tent full of what looks to be thousands of people wraps itself around Deacon and his table full of gadgets. As per usual, the Baltimore-based electronic maestro is set up on the floor, blasting the massive crowd with his arppeggiated best—a minimalist composer surrounded by proof of his music’s relative accessibility. Deacon is bent over, trying to get the crowd to dance, but it’s possible that he’s just having a good laugh at the ridiculousness of what’s going on. Deacon’s version of avant minimalism has been embraced by folks who will happily pack a sweaty tent. It’s an odd sort of arrangement, and with the release of Bromst, Deacon’s gone and made it odder. He’s taken his one-man electronics show and turned it into…a 15-piece touring ensemble. Deacon has used session musicians before, but creating a whole ensemble consciously unmasks his process a bit. There’s no question that Deacon could perform much of Bromst all by his lonesome. “Red F,” a typically loud number loaded with the sorts of repetitive distorted chanting, pitch-shifting, and scale-climbing that made folks fall for Deacon’s art, and “Surprise Stefani,” a simple track that balances a familiar, easy Kraut-y drive with atmospheric synth sounds would work just fine coming from only Deacon’s devices. The tedium of transcribing his work for his touring group seems to betray a greater ambition: Having taken modern composition to the masses—and having had it embraced by them—Deacon seems with his latest to be challenging them to come a bit deeper into his world. After all, he is an academically trained electronic composer, a fact that he blatantly reminds us of with “Wet Wings,” an act of vocal splicing that directly recalls some of Reich’s work. With this sort of revealing of his conceit, Deacon risks any big sweaty hug that he might experience at future festivals, but because he’s only mildly tempered his sonic efforts (a little toy piano here, a little clearly live percussion there), the music, despite making an intellectual jump, remains instantly recognizable. Even if the folks performing it aren’t.