Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?

8/10


“There was no time to go back!” frontman Bradford Cox yelps Malkmusly on opener ‘Death in Midsummer’.Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? positions itself against nostalgia, that force which strongly informed their early recordings, and also evokes a kind of cool, unfussy detachment which grazes the present rather than the future.

Accordingly, there’s real breadth, in terms of instrumentation, polyphony, even the mix – the vectorscope would be distinctly rhombic – which encompasses this shunning of binaries. It’s cinematic, but not in an aping-obscure-OSTs kind of way, more in what it evokes.

‘Element’ is one of the album’s strongest statements, along with gauzy ‘What Happens to People?’, on which Cox drops phatic, off-hand remarks like “Winter is coming, beware” and “Take a step back and figure it out” which segue into two notes from a solitary, slightly out-of-tune piano. This from the man who recently said, “I’ve retreated from figuring out anything.” But it isn’t about autobiography; it’s about putting yourself in character, and stream-of-consciousness meanderings. Hence rhymey nuggets like “You look cute in plastic/ My existence drastic” and “I was racing against time/ With this friend of mine”, alternately playful and deathly serious.

There are contributions from Cate Le Bon, who also produces, and Tim Presley of White Fence. The album was recorded in Marfa, Texas, a small, arty desert town whose mythos is tapped into obliquely on jaunty number ‘Plains’ – it’s the place where James Dean spent his last days – but otherwise doesn’t seem to have too much bearing on the album. Desert Sessionsthis isn’t. 

Nostalgia is hijacked, denounced as “toxic”: the album skips over most obvious reference points, the harpsichord on the opening track, played by Le Bon, is resolutely unbaroque. And whilst détournement as term and technique might be handy in explaining away the group’s vision, ‘Détournement’ feels a bit laboured after the two previous tracks. 

Closer ‘Nocturne’ is billed as a “live stream from the afterlife”, its most stygian part being the glitchy, cataclysmic vocal. Based on Cox’s liner notes, all grim poetic fragments and deadpan remarks, you’d be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t exactly going to be a chirpy affair, but even songs like ‘No One’s Sleeping’, which references the murder of MP Jo Cox, and ‘Death in Midsummer’, a meditation on… death and deaths of friends, sound somewhat, inexplicably, upbeat. But this is a kind of ruse as well, because there’s usually some eldritch detail just around the corner. Create a tag cloud from the coverage of Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?and “unpredictable” and “beautiful” would stand out, and rightly so. It’s a scattershot, dreamy response to nihilism, to the ‘Modern Age’, really, with a few stand-out moments.


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