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Review: Deerhunter puts forth serene soundscapes in new LP “Fading Frontier”



As more and more great ideas come forth and develop in our ever-changing world, humans have become more connected to the technological realm than the physical one. Although not a concept album, this is one of the main themes that Georgia-based band Deerhunter tackles in its new LP Fading Frontier.

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Frontman Bradford Cox performs with Deerhunter at Primavera Sound in 2009 (Flickr Creative Commons)

Serving as the first LP since frontman Cox was hit by a car in 2014, Fading Frontier is a beautiful, trance-inducing, mature album filled with hints of reflection and recovery. The album departs from the ripping, and somewhat aggressive, mesh of garage-rock anthems from the group’s last LP, 2013’s Monomania, into a more serene soundscape.

Known for pasting together a hodgepodge of diverse sounds and styles, Deerhunter has developed a unique sound that no other group could dare claim as its own, yet the sound simultaneously evolves with every new release.

When brainstorming about the album, the ideas of technology and the Internet came to frontman Bradford Cox. “Remember when we were young and there was this excitement about what was going to happen next?” Cox said in an interview with Pitchfork. “And now, honestly, do you really want to know what happens next? I’ve seen enough in my lifetime; the frontier has faded. If it gets more intense, we’re just going to end up not ever leaving our houses.”

Cox sings in the atmospheric second track of the album, “Living My Life,” “I’m off the grid / I’m out of range / And the amber waves of grain / Are turning grey again” – an homage to the grim confrontation of the fleeting importance of the physical frontier he faces.

Musically, Frontier takes vital pieces from every direction of the band’s discography. From the minimalistic, aching of Halcyon Digest to the epic and acclaimed jams on Microcastle, though it manages to not sound like a clone of anything the band has done before.

The majority of the album makes obvious use of gliding synthesizer and eclectic drum tracks, though welds those elements seamlessly with live instruments. The tracks are extremely varied stylistically. “Take Care” serves as a slow and melodic ballad, while “Snakeskin,” one of the LP’s singles, is surprisingly funky. All of the tracks are cemented together by Cox’s unmistakable croon, echoing and somber as ever, yet this time in particular, untouchably resistant.

Though emerging from unfortunate circumstances and melancholy themes, Frontier is in no way a depressing group of tracks. On the contrary, the album comes off as light, airy and surprisingly optimistic at points.

Although the songwriting is reflective of being continuously beat down, every song pushes back with resilience and a striking resemblance to the sun breaking through storm clouds.

I’m still alive / And that’s something,” Cox sings in the track “Breaker,” about his car accident, “And when I die / There will be nothing to say / Except I tried.”

Even though the frontier may be fading, Cox and the rest of Deerhunter aren’t ready to surrender. And they want you to keep on fighting too.

Watch the music video for Deerhunter’s “Living My Life” below:

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Meerah Powell

Meerah Powell