June 29, 2016
Review: Deerhoof | The Magic
Fidgety, kaleidoscopic opener "The Devil And His Anarchic Surrealist Retinue" commences with a teeth-rattling riff that vacillates between glitchy, haywire keys and stretches of ambience (watch the tremendous video here). But while Deerhoof's songs shift shape constantly and with agility, the band often returns to certain touchstones. The guitars, for example, can either underscore Deerhoof's '90s origins, or sound lifted from '70s and '80s radio standards. The thundering riff of The Magic's "Kafe Mania!" makes the band's recent predilection for covering Def Leppard somehow less surprising. Hip-shaking deep album cut "Plastic Thrills," which showcases a supple vocal performance from drummer Greg Saunier, has all the swagger of '70s hitmakers The Faces. Atop its big riffs, Deerhoof gives free rein to its fascination with keys, synths and all the weird sounds they can make. "Model Behaviour" approximates the sound of a melting orchestra, whilst the aforementioned album opener flashes with vibrancy that recalls a carnival late at night.
Of course the biggest constant on the record -- and indeed most of the group's discography -- is fronter Satomi Matsuzaki's vocals. New listeners might find them overly manic and saccharine, but fans will find them a constant source of delight on The Magic. "Learning to Apologise Effectively" emphasizes how potent her voice can be, as her high-pitched tones sound hauntingly lost within a wall of guitars. The fragility she displays on "Patrasche Come Back" strikes a welcome contrast to the set's stomping rockers. Indeed, when her voice is absent, as it is in "That Ain't No Lie To Me," the music works less well. Elsewhere, "Life Is Suffering" contains the repeated lyric "learning, searching in the night," and the sentiment nicely sums up what makes The Magic magical: even two decades into a remarkable career, Deerhoof continues to bravely explore what lurks beyond the fringe of its comfort zone. Here, the results are as exuberant as they are often unexpected. The Magic was released June 24 via Polyvinyl Records on clear purple vinyl, CD, trusty cassette, or as a digital download. Purchase the set in any of those formats via Deerhoof's Bandcamp page right here. -- Theo Gorst
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