‘Tuned In’ review: Dan Deacon’s complex ‘America’ revels in contradictions

'America' by Dan Deacon

"America" by Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon’s “America” is nearly as complicated as the United States itself.

The American electronic artist creates a sound that’s impossibly dense, saturated with often-bracing layers and distant, vocoder-ized vocals that swirl in surrealistically.

The lyrics are also nearly impenetrable, though there are repeating themes of despair and redemption — plus an indication that either an apocalypse looms and there’s still a chance to fend it off, or an apocalypse has happened and somehow there’s been rebirth, possibly on another plane. Also, there’s an indication nature will win out, with or without humanity.

Clearly “America” is more of a concept album than a collection of radio-friendly singles or nightclub-friendly dance tracks. That said, the release frequently has bursts of uplift (comparable to a radio hit) or stretches of propulsive rhythms (suitable for a dance floor).

Yet those are secondary benefits compared to taking in “America” as a whole — from the staticky cacophony of opener “Guilford Avenue Bridge” through the pulsing/muffled beautiful/disturbing “Lots” through the lulling “Prettyboy” built on rippling riffs and droning buzz. The improbably attractive “True Thrush” sprawls through a deluge of energy and subterranean vocals delivering lines like, “Spread those wings wide and take me along.” Later track “Crash Jam” likewise has unlikely appeal, manic and calming at the same time as Deacon paints a scene of foreboding: “Dark desert sky, one million years old/The moon appears, no one can ignore/The plants know why.”

“America” concludes with a four-part “USA,” a subtle shift from one part to the next accompanied by a mini-symphony of guest artists playing the likes of violin, cello, flute, horns and more. The momentum ebbs and flows in this suite of songs, the air both dreamy and unsettling. Early on (parts 1 and 2), Deacon declares, “Nothing lives long, only the Earth and the mountains” and, “All my life fades away on roads passed by like cries to the night.” Then he segues to the instrumental third part with ginger transcendence before bringing it all together in a finale that shoots into the stratosphere: “Leave the light on for me, I’m coming home ... The times are racing now, I’m just glad I spent them with you.”

Listen to Deacon’s heady “America,” and you’ll likely be glad you spent time with him, too.

Rating: 4 stars (out of five)

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