There is nothing quite as wonderfully disarming as when Bradford Cox cheerily wanders onto the darkened stage to a confused half-muted reception from the early assembled crowd. Dressed almost like a wholesome camp councillor in a heavy cable knit jumper and a simple snapback, he clutches his guitar close before launching into some new Atlas Sound dronework. The decision to have Cox’s solo outing, Atlas Sound support Deerhunter on the majority of their tour dates may strike some as outlandishly egotistical or just plain exhausting but with an artist as prodigious as Bradford Cox it almost seems churlish to want to rein in his boundless, prolific temperament. The new work unleashed is part Another Green World era Eno, part woozy Panda Bear percussion, with Cox slashing through any sweetness with Autechresque blips and heavy beats, at one point looping himself live drumming as if lost in a storm of his own conjuring.
When the rest of the band join Cox onstage – attempting to seamlessly segue into a Deerhunter jam (echoing earlier performances from the Cryptograms tour) – it unfortunately has to be aborted due to a distinctly fuzzy mic issue. When they re-start, the booming riff of ‘Desire Lines’ ensures the spell is not completely broken. The jangly dream-pop of ‘Breaker’ follows and it soars as joyfully as on record with Cox and Lockett Pundt like rec-room Everly Brothers. Pundt hunched over his guitar almost crouching away from sight, his fragile croon entwining with Cox’s visceral rasp in a chaotic twin harmony.
The Fading Frontier album with its accessible melodic formula and tight structure has almost reconfigured the band as a live act, even more so than the gloom-pop of Halcyon Digest. Gone is the sizzling white hot rage that was pummelled into almost every live show, the ferocious bruising and bloody wall of sound has been replaced by ingenious beauty and stunning sonic simplicity. Nowhere is this more evident than the delicate reworking of 2009’s ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’. Its hazy, almost bossa nova rhythms once hidden under layers of squalling sinewy guitars have now been allowed to shine through, transforming it into a blissed out slice of wonky magic. ‘Living My Life’ is also rebooted with the shimmering keyboards and percussion jacked up into a Paul Simon style sunshiny hymn. It’s a Deerhunter song you can perhaps not full-on bust a move to but swing your fringe to in a moody fashion at the very least.
The set list is firmly on the less discordant side with not even the lighter, doo-wop moments of Monomania getting a look in, which is disappointing as Irish fans never got an opportunity to hear the album live due to the cancellation of the tour in 2013. Instead, the one-two punch of Halcyon Digest’s poppier moments ‘Revival’ and ‘Don’t Cry’ are doled out back to back with that autumnal, early R.E.M sound ringing through loudly.
This new direction sees Bradford on top chatty form even informing the crowd that Dublin ‘got’ Deerhunter way before Paris or London, this was perhaps due to his ‘Irish’ temperament, before dedicating the dazzling ‘Duplex Planet’ to ‘all the cailíní’. Although the imposing, brooding Deerhunter of old, the bastard child of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, the Southern Gothic swamp monster, has not been suffocated entirely and roars into life with a full blooded, brutal ten minute version of ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ bashed out. Its unique power, the controlled violence of Moses Archuleta’s drumming and rhythmic force never fails to leave an audience in a fugue, hypnotic state but before there’s time to realign they’ve already begun the finale of the crystal cold electro shoe-gaze of ‘Ad Astra’. As it’s a Sunday night they’ve been informed they’re on a strict curfew and exit the stage to ear-drum bursting cheers before sneaking back on to finish up with an encore of Microcastle’s ‘Cover Me (Slowly)’ & ‘Agoraphobia’.
At this stage of their almost ten year career, with an album as perfect as Fading Frontier and a back catalogue just as faultless, Deerhunter are at their imperial best – an intoxicating rare breed of a band who leave all others on the verge of extinction.
Deerhunter photographed for State by Killian Broderick.