By Published Jan 5, 2019
Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?

Sungenre Album of the Month – January 2019

This is not the best Deerhunter album. Each of the Atlanta, Georgia band’s seven prior releases has its own distinct and unique flavour, in no part impeded but instead greatly enhanced by enigmatic lead singer Bradford Cox’s knack for crafting lyrics on the fly. Ranging from ambient art-rock instrumentals (Cryptograms, 2007) to sharp, refined psych dream pop (Halcyon Digest, 2010) to self-described “nocturnal garage” (Monomania, 2013) – and even some funk for good measure (“Snakeskin”, 2015) – their diverse and eclectic catalogue is so full of consistently terrific releases, including their latest, that it’s hard to single any one highlight out.

Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is billed as somewhat of a concept album, with the word ‘fade’ appearing across four of its ten beautifully produced tracks – initially in apparent reference to their previous studio album, Fading Frontier (2015). However, it soon becomes clear that the band is instead concerned with the disappearance of culture, humanity, nature, logic and emotion – as confirmed by the album’s corresponding press release, which is accompanied by some truly bizarre footnotes from Cox (reproduced in entirety below). The press release even goes so far as to exclaim, “Why make this album in an era when attention spans have been reduced to next to nothing, and the tactile grains of making music have been further reduced to algorithms and projected playlist placement?”

Throughout its 37 minutes, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? mixes various sounds and instrumentation which one might strongly associate with specific bygone eras to create a stunningly disorienting mishmash which seems to exist squarely in a time of its own creation. “There is some form of art left… eternal jet lag, and time starts to run backwards,” Cox proclaims after greeting various locations around the world in a weird, no-fucks-given treated spoken vocal performance on track six, “Détournement”. In stark contrast, track three, a two-minute instrumental titled “Greenpoint Gothic” sounds more like a Gary Numan outtake, employing an array of synths including the Yamaha CS-20, Arp Solina and Vox Humana.

First single “Death in Midsummer” opens proceedings with co-producer Cate Le Bon, an accomplished singer-songwriter in her own right, playing jovial thirds back and forth on harpsichord, Javier Morales delivering steady major piano chords and drummer Moses Archuleta playing the second and fourth beats on hi-hat. A minute in, and there is a crescendo of sorts to welcome the full, distorted Ringo-esque beat and bassist Josh McKay. With Lockett Pundt’s guitar barely audible for the most part, a secondary build delivers a welcome glam style guitar solo by Cox, accompanied by soaring Arp synthesizer. The song strikes as an odd choice to open with, let alone release as lead single, given it snubs conventional wisdom by failing to include anything remotely resembling a chorus. But therein lies the mastery and mystery of Deerhunter.

Second single “Element”, presented as track four on the album, adopts a similar back and forth see-saw-like mechanism to the first single, but with rich electric bass here taking the driver’s seat instead of harpsichord, which is still present, following the vocal melody closely. Of note is the inclusion of Cox’s father James who is credited with bass vocals in the song’s chorus – “Elemental, elemental, elemental,” sung in repeated fashion to create the feeling the record is skipping.

And indeed the see-saw, topsy-turvy feeling continues throughout the album on numbers such as “No One’s Sleeping” and the short, standout track “Futurism”, with its lo-fi, 60s French pop-like aesthetic. “No One’s Sleeping” is a steady, self-assured number which prominently features 12-string acoustic guitar in its verses and audio trickery in its choruses – Morales here has layered multiple takes to create the impression of a saxophone sextet performance. Intriguingly, all band members plus Le Bon are credited with having played mandolin on this track, but with a plethora of synths, drones and bells present in the mix, you’d be forgiven for not noticing.

“When the day goes dark, objects of the night, mirrors for the lights, call for me to come outside,” Pundt sings on “Tarnung”, accompanied by contrapuntal marimba and Le Bon in choir-like harmony. The song sounds like a mashup of two tracks off David Bowie’s 1977 masterpiece Low – “Weeping Wall” and the Brian Eno-collaboration “Warszawa” – an impressively far cry from Deerhunter’s previous work and testament to their shapeshifting abilities.

“What Happens to People?” is perhaps the most catchy and memorable track presented here, with verses brimming with naivety, contrasted with halftime chorus sections heavy with realisation; “I can’t remember your face, it’s lost to me, it’s lost to me. Now it’s ending, the wounds remain, unpaved, unpaved.”

“Plains” and “Nocturne” round the album out. The first is an upbeat cut with a similar kind of carefree feeling as The Cure’s “Close To Me” and clean 80s guitar tones to boot. The band reportedly made a conscious decision to change their production methods for this album, opting to plug guitars directly into the mixing console rather than record an amplified sound with microphones. Finally, “Nocturne”, the longest song on the record, provides a treated tape vocal performance from Cox which gives the impression that it has been sung in reverse. Alternating only between F and Eb major for the best part of its 6:25 minutes, it’s unclear upon first listen whether the five piece are intending to close the album on an optimistic or melancholic note. Lyrics such as “and there were no boundaries left to cross, only the space imagined from due discourse,” offer no helpful clues.

Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is one of those albums which obsessives can pore over for days or even weeks. Carefully considered and elegantly constructed, there’s never too much going on that it becomes overproduced or oversaturated. It’s a mysterious work which feels as though it ought to have some extra hidden meaning to it. It may do, it may not – but half of the fun of this album lies in attempting to figure it out.

Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is released Friday 18th January via 4AD

Editor’s note: The following text from Bradford Cox was attached to the press release for this album. We have decided to reproduce it in full, as we believe it may be beneficial reading for fans wishing to form their own interpretation of the contents of the album.

A note from Bradford:

I.
l’études des parfums

here is the vomit of 20th century
solutions of india ink and ox bile
OUTSIDE INDUSTRIAL GARAGE
reset ORANGE GOAL
the pageant of chrome
(and chrome colors: yellow chord / green rhythm)
STANDARDS:
here, the stars die in gardens
stale and malignant
Harpsichord and Bass Clarinet
composition of fabric and sulphur
matchless PRAX
Vampire Salon
of human dignity, compete
then we relax in
glass
of no color
colorless liquid afternoons
of italian marble and
a gallery of snare sounds

II.
“Who, with traction_”
(placid matrix of Club Country
in these pastel tonics)
Some Twilight Hunting
Plaid Motor Robes
oil of cypress DISTIL
ALPINE flashing
against dark lens
The Common Gentle Surface
abraded by Rum and Bay Leaves
so when your CARBON FLEX
of rolodex foxfire

III.
The union of ink and circuit ABSORBED BY GREEN
water
tinted with minerals
and ENGLISH RAIN
the landscape colors
neutralized
by Payne’s Grey
OCHRE transfigured into Ceramic Blanche
shell pink in tins with yellow printing
HORSE hair and tired HORSE

(HORSE IS NOT MOVING)
fixed in cul-de-sac

IV.

  • CASED THE JOINT
  • with latex and enamel flash
  • reversed circulation to create
  • perfect chaos out of dust
  • and the discovery of the short scale of our own vision
  • we retreated back into print
  • the vagrants watching us with steel teeth
  • locked into place
  • ready for the music
  • chewing at cables and snares

V.

  • TOLEX landscape of northern industrial charcoal heath VAST
  • what floats out of transfixion
  • the black, flat passions
  • the synthesizer
  • The lead peeling off the plaster gallery of saints:
    • ST. VARIAX
    • ST. CLOROX
    • ST. CLB SODA
    • ST. TACK PIANO

(rooms of incense and nickel candles wrapped in brown paper.)

The DRACONIA County post office
yellowed letters in automatic tone
in mechanical percussion
incinerated
under lavender skies
of spinster piano music

VI.
VANQUISH THE MELODIC

(Ball-point pen illustration not reproduced)

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