Imagine a musical supercomputer has ingested some type of psychedelic substance and completely jammed out for 42 minutes straight. Baltimore electronic musician and composer Dan Deacon’s latest work, “Gliss Riffer,” illustrates just that.
Since the release of his 2007 breakthrough album, “Spiderman of the Rings,” Deacon has brought his whirlwind fusion of electronic textures to live audiences around the world.
Deacon, now age 33, has matured his musical style from chaotic bursts of computer sounds to a more melodic pop sound that fuses harmonious instrumentals with pitch-manipulated vocal samples.
The record dives through a relaxed aesthetic of pitch-bending instrumental work, as Deacon maintains his popular incorporation of abrupt rhythmic fluctuations.
“Gliss Riffer” is by no means a mellow-sounding record; rather, the inclusion of colorful vocals creates a comfortable tapestry for Deacon’s use of thick synthesizers and electronic drums in the background on several tracks.
The opening song, “Feel the Lightning,” immediately sparks into an explosion of buzzing synths and transient vocals. Deacon displays a masterful understanding of what seems to be an infinite deck of computer-generated noises.
The rush of fast-paced, psychedelic energy exerted throughout the album is evident on “Sheathed Wings,” as Deacon takes the listener through an edgy journey of whistling, high-pitched voices and rapid electronic drumbeats.
The album’s name, “Gliss Riffer,” makes sense as Deacon progresses into the heart of the record. The word “gliss” is short for “glissando,” which refers to a rapid movement between pitches, and aligns well with Deacon’s borderline-crazy sound.
It is intuitive to imagine the vibrant physical energy that the album will bring about among audiences of Deacon’s future live performances. “Meme Generator” bypasses any bounds of rhythmic pattern, flowing through a bizarre abstraction of angelic voices and fairytale-like wind instrument synthesizers.
Although Deacon has taken steps to lighten up his music from its previous intensity, “Learning to Relax” certainly does not live up to its title. Throughout the song, it sounds as if a computer has lost its mind, entering a chaotic trance that concludes in a bouncy contrast between pulsing drums and escalating pianos.
Although generated mostly digitally, Deacon’s music succeeds in expressing various human emotional states. In each song, an elaborate contrast of different pitches occurs at every instant, and it is impossible to pick apart Deacon’s multi-layered style.
Toward the latter part of “Gliss Riffer,” Deacon slows down the pace on “Take it to the Max,” gradually building ambient noises into a bursting plethora of sharp sounds as the end of the record approaches.
The final track, “Steely Blues,” starts with an eerie build-up into a dense package of swirling sounds. Weird psychedelic themes displayed throughout the album come alive on what sounds like the conclusion of a 42-minute musical trip through the sounds of Deacon’s mind.
Deacon’s “Gliss Riffer” expands upon the seemingly endless bounds of the experimental electronica genre. Deacon masterfully incorporates his absurdist experimental style with a new taste of melodic vocal effects, giving the album more of a pop identity than any of his previous work.
– Max McGee