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Deerhunter - Rainwater Cassette Exchange

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Artist: Deerhunter

Album: Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Label: Kranky

Review date: Sep. 25, 2009

It may not be quite fair or accurate to call Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox the godfather of today’s lo-fi pop resurgence, but upon looking back, 2007’s Cryptograms appears destined to be one of those landmarks in dissonant pop. That the indie music world is now withstanding an onslaught of crusty pop – see Ty Segall, Wavves, even Sic Alps and perhaps the entire Woodsist label’s output – is at least partially attributable to that album’s influence.

With 2008’s Microcastle, Cox and crew took a slight turn and shined things up a bit, with a stronger emphasis on the pop side of things. While reviews have pointed out how restrained the album felt initially, there’s plenty of dramatic flair on display as well.

Rainwater Cassette Exchange, the band’s latest EP, is a slim 15 minutes and five songs. As such, it’s hard to tell whether this represents where they’re at right now or a simple placeholder. Dropping the word "cassette" signifies a less-polished affair than Microcastle, and the songs do indeed occupy a place midway between the band’s two Kranky albums. As a result, oddly enough, we get a terrific blend of pop and experimentation.

Those of us who miss Olivia Tremor Control will find much to like here, from the woozy Beach Boys title track to the fast-moving closer "Circulation." Creating dreamy pop that isn’t bogged down in lethargy is a tricky business, but Deerhunter pull it off repeatedly. Often it’s the choruses that, coming out of reverb-drenched verses, pull you into the dramatic peaks that provide the hooks.

Whether in the energetic, driving rhythms of "Disappearing Ink" or the unique, piano-led "Game of Diamonds,” the EP repays careful listening. The heavy-hitting drums of the former turn the typical pop song recording process on its head, almost deeming the pounding kick-drum lead status. The recurring theremin-like wail in the background of "Famous Last Words" adds an edginess that plays counterpoint to the vocals, recorded with an EQ that makes them feel naked and rough.

Most of all, these are songs that you’ll remember, and want to return to. And at only 15 minutes, it leaves you wanting more, which is all too rare these days.

By Mason Jones

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