Deerhunter_Fading_Frontier_630x630Prior to the album release, Bradford Cox revealed Concept Map listing the influences of the album, which seems to have acted as a handy companion to any press release. Most reviews already posted seem to pick a circle of the map and use that as the premise for their review (see Ian Cohen of Pitchfork’s focus on Cox’s ‘safe’ choices or Alexis Petridis’ focus on the 80s bands), but few seem to attempt to shed light into any of the more leftfield choices. Two less direct concepts spring to mind when considering how Deerhunter consider this record; firstly, harmful effects of long-term exposure to the chemicals which create that ‘new car smell’, and second: ‘Kintsukuroi– to repair broken pottery with gold understanding a piece to be more beautiful for having been broken.

There’s a yearning in the album for underlining the blemishes of the past, or paving over the cracks with gold, with a healthy disdain for the new. Jangly punkish sounds seem to have been replaced by a pop-consciousness. ‘Snakeskin’ lacks any particularly disagreeable distortions or sounds that would make a radio-listener commuting home change stations. Your dad would never ask you to turn ‘All The Same’ off. Of course, this doesn’t really matter as the songs are still technically amazing, though less immersive than in Monomania’s ‘Neon Junkyard’, for example.

As a fan of Bradford Cox, there are times when listening to the album feels like fans of Michael Jackson must have felt during the HIStory years. ‘Living My Life’ seems like a product of the same kind of ridiculousness an artist engages in when they feel like they’re writing a legacy, though we are saved from the pseudo-ethereal tedium by Moses Archuleta’s drums. Elsewhere, songs like ‘Ad Astra’ and ‘Leather and Wood’ conclude into an avant garde mix of Delia Derbyshire-esque beeps, vintage radio sounds and synth pad sounds (another influence from the concept map).

For the sake of a direct comparison, Halcyon Digest, to quote Pitchfork, was “about the joy of music discovery, the thrill of listening for the first time to a potential future favourite”; in that sense it felt like a very meta-personal experience. By comparison, Fading Frontier tends to reach out into the issues. Where Halcyon Digest featured a transgender midget on the front cover without feeling like it was addressing anything other than something personable to the band, when Fading Frontier addresses the same topic in ‘All The Same’, it carries the same kind of subtlety as a BuzzFeed article. In that sense a lot of the album feels like its grabbing from its contemporaries and writing listicles in its place. Parts feel like Tame Impala psychedelia, a Mac Demarco stoner-riff, a Beach House soundscape. But it is not a bad album. Throughout, Cox’s nihilistic lamentations (declaring “I was born already nailed to the cross” in ‘Snakeskin’) and their signature ‘ambient punk’ sound become more present after each listen. The greatest features are the bits that become more audible once you get past corrosive new-fangled pop rhythms. Much like that new car smell.

Release Date 16/10/2015 (4AD)

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Tim Moss

I liked Yaggfu Front before they were famous