As Bradford Cox and co. trip onto the stage with barely a few cocked glances and a smattering of hesitant applause, the audience seem more anxious than the band, unsure of which Deerhunter they are going to get.
The Deerhunter live experience is a chaotic and schizophrenic mix, striving to meld the two sides of the bands sound that meet so perfectly on record; the melodic Orbison, Spector dreamy dark doo-wop with their heart shuddering, dense wail of sound and spiralling feedback. Whereas their last live performance in Dublin at Vicar St. was one of shimmering squall, an elongated jam of almost ambient proportions with the band sliding in and out of songs echoing the spacey interludes of the Cryptograms album, this live show is an altogether different beast.
With Cox in chirpy form, all big smiles and ‘aw-gee shucks” good nature ready to win over the crowd, they ease into the nights proceedings with the jangly up-tempo ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’ the title track of their new EP reminiscent of Cox’s side line project Atlas Sound than the molasses heavy dirge of Deerhunter that is expected. Though this gentle inauspicious intro is quickly usurped by what should be the cranium snapping fire of ‘Cryptograms’ but the intensity is some what marred by the murky sound and the failure of Bradford’s vocal distorter to raise the song to its true potency.
Things manage to improve with the quiet beauty of ‘Hazel St.’ segueing into the balled-fist fury of ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ the slicing guitars and driving rhythms showcasing drummer Moses Archuleta’s powerful muscular style. The white-hot sound explosion of the final moments with the growing tempest of duelling guitars building into a ferocious haze of noise they are as mesmerising as ever battling against the poor sound quality.
It’s not until they unleash the speaker-wobbling colossal noise of ‘White Ink’ bringing the audience to its knees with the strength of their crushing, relentless looping feedback that the raw might of Deerhunter is truly exposed. An exhausted Bradford later realises they may have gone too far acknowledging that “It was loud, was it? We can’t hear a fucking thing” even Kevin Shields may have cupped his ears in fear!
But that’s nothing compared to the awe-inspiring ‘Fluorescent Grey’ a song Cox dismisses as “one for the teenagers”, it flows effortlessly, a creeping beauty of a tune. The sighing, internal torment of the lyrics, the waking dream of death, and the hard-swallow choke of the line “You were my God in high school”‘š Before the juddering onslaught of guitars and drums follow lifting it into a convulsing, breathing piece of perfection, with the refrain “People that really know” echoing like a prophetic maxim it’s hard not to be left dry mouthed and slack jawed in wonderment.