For his latest undertaking, electronic innovator Dan Deacon is certainly tackling ambitious musical territory; America weaves together a polyphonic range of influences that reflect the country’s disparate cultural heritage. The album is split: the A side contains pop songs – think Spiderman Of The Rings’ exuberance fused with Bromst’s complexity – while side B is composed of a ‘USA’ quartet; a sweeping, cinematic exploration of the state of the nation. Deacon’s dabbling with classical music shows in the deeply textured sound built up from acoustic layers of orchestral instruments, which crescendo into the foreground for the second half of the album.
The shift in tone between the two sides is clear, an urban setting shifts to an open, emptier landscape as the last strains of ‘Crash Jam’ – all synths and dance-friendly percussion – are replaced with an extended orchestral intro to ‘USA I: Is A Monster’. As the track progresses, spiky, low-fi synths are introduced gradually to create a hazy sense of space and changing scenery.
The atmospheric quality of the second half resembles a highly sophisticated film score; there’s no denying that Deacon takes the business of music making seriously. For ‘USA III: Rail’, he built a room specifically to record the orchestral track, which has innumerable layers of violin, cello and trombone, overlapping and repeating to reconstruct the rhythm of a train. Although the song is almost entirely acoustic, the effect is that of computer music; Deacon’s innovative way of melding acoustic and electronic is nothing if not inspired. Throughout the album, bleak, apocalyptic lyrics are twisted into anthemic dance tracks in major keys, supercharging America with a raw, infectious energy. Bold and all encompassing, it’s the nearest thing you’ll get to the Great American Novel in audio form.