With less haze this time around, Deerhunter made just about everyone’s end-of-the-year list, and that in a year that saw Kanye West, TV on the Radio, Beck, and a reunited Portishead releasing records.
And while it may be much more straightforward than 2007’s Cryptograms or Atlas Sound’s Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel released just a few months prior, Microcastle is not a very definite record at all. The first track is just an introduction for Locket Pundt’s “Agoraphobia,” in which he seems to be repeating himself until you listen carefully. The middle section is a three song collage, none of which have discernible hooks or pronounced rhythms. The title track, save for its last minute, is a very soft-spoken affair similar to Cryptograms’ “Spring Hall Convert.”
The second half is a bit of a different story, though. Despite Bradford Cox’s efforts to keep the songs shorter this time, not relying on effects pedals as much as they had before, he can’t help the Krautrock of “Nothing Ever Happened” (the only song by neither Cox or Pundt) from nearing six minutes, with four of those minutes being fuzzy guitar solo.
“Saved By Old Times” opens with an angular guitar figure put to groovy drum set and lyrics about vampires before entering into a dadaist noise collage that breaks into the jangling new-gaze pound of Cryptograms’ second half. “These Hands” keeps that jangle for about three minutes, until degrading into two minutes of ambient drone that bleeds into the closer, “Twilight at Carbon Lake,” which opens slowly and spends most of its time building to its chaotic noise-rock closing moments.
As much as I’ve listened to this record, I still have a hard time pinning it down. There’s a slippery, undefinable characteristic about it that makes it much more than just the halfway point between Cryptograms and Halcyon Digest that I often think of it as.