Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh
Over the last fifteen years Deerhunter have distinguished themselves for uniting a passion for the weird and exoteric with an ear for classic pop hooks. From the noise experimentation of Weird Era Cont. to the back-to-basics garage-rock of Monomania, the band has always had a knack for incorporating eclectic influences without ever appearing derivative. And with a frontman as adorably charismatic as Bradford Cox, it isn’t surprising that I am being squeezed in every direction by the audience at Støre Vega.
But though they might be an engaging live act, Deerhunter are certainly an uncompromising group of musicians. Part of the anticipation of seeing them is not quite knowing what direction they will take. They gave us a taste of this with their newest release, Fading Frontier: preceded by the balls-out funkiness of “Snakeskin”, and opening with the comforting jangle of “All the Same”, the rest of the album takes a much quieter, subdued approach.
Tonight we find this strategy reversed. Bradford Cox is opening for his own band, under his Atlas Sound moniker, with a half-hour set of contemplative keyboard pieces. Accompanied only by a sampler, Cox fills the room with droning synths, looped beats and the odd sound of birds. It’s certainly an interesting side to Cox, reminiscent of his work on the soundtrack to the documentary Teenage, which was showing in the lobby of Vega before the show. But it’s not exactly an act to get the audience’s blood pumping.
But of course, once the rest of the band takes the stage, there are plenty of chances to get the circulation going. Despite some initial issues with the sound, Deerhunter quickly gather momentum as they cover some of the catchiest parts of career so far. From Halcyon Digest‘s “Desire Lines” and “Revival” to Microcastle‘s “Cover Me (Slowly) / Agoraphobia”, the set consists of some of the best psychedelic indie pop written in the last two decades. And although some elements of their set conform their tradition, for instance how “Nothing Ever Happened” brilliantly transitions into a cover of the latter half of Patti Smith’s “Horses” , there are still surprises in store.
Tracks like “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” are re-imagined in a more rhythmically interesting, almost afro-beat flavour, giving the set a consistent feel, despite drawing from so many different ears of Deerhunter’s career. Towards the end the band transitions from pop tunes to more extended jam sessions. The aforementioned “Nothing Ever Happened” is extended to almost 20 minutes, miraculously never losing any of its focus and energy. Equally engaging and demanding, Deerhunter once more prove to be a highlight in anyone’s gig-going year.