4AD, 2009

Flying headlong into the face of those who cried ‘pop sellout!’ upon the release of the glory ascendant, trumpet heralding masterpiece Microcastle [rated 10/10 on this site] comes Deerhunter again with this petite but packed five track EP Rainwater Cassette Exchange that not so much as qualifies the statements lauded at Microcastle but also sneers at the masses for calling out too soon.

Recorded earlier this year, Rainwater Cassette Exchange is a brief fifteen minute snapshot of Deerhunter in a state of metamorphosis, the five tracks displaying a more concentrated and refined approach to the music with three of the five songs barely clocking the two minute mark. This could be seen as picking out a few of the sharpest arrows in their quiver to create their most commercial effort yet or just as contrarily, a glimpse of the band at where they are right now and of passing significance to where they’ll be in six months time.

The title track evokes a lush Hawaiian luau, Cox cryptically crooning “two-oo-oo weeks of misery/Capture my heart and destroy me”, in an attempt to take a vacation from his frustrations. Over Cox’s swamp guitar Moses Archuleta provides a crickets-chirping beat while bassist Josh Fauver and guitarist Lockett Pundt stoke the fire. A tempo change chorus saves the track from getting too comfortable. “Disappearing Ink” is reminiscent of Cryptograms era Deerhunter but played at twice the regular speed, Fauver and Archuleta locked together hurtling down the autobahn, or the I-85. “Famous Last Words” has Cox coming off like a laconic Julian Casablancas against rat-a-tat drums and twilight zone Theremin, but its Deerhunter-by-numbers approach doesn’t quite make the grade.

“Game of Diamonds” is a distant cousin to the title track minus the coconuts and palm trees, Cox playing lap steel and congas with Fauver on piano and guitar. Dropping the veil of affected vocals and the absence of Archuleta’s driving drumbeat which dominate most of the songs show Deerhunter stepping further outside their comfort zone and all the more better for it. They’re back in once again for the final track “Circulation”, composed by Archuleta and once again propelled by his rapid snare hits. The slow delivery of the vocals provides a nice counterpoint to the strong tempo and the incorporated video sound collage in the coda is par for the course, but just as effective.

It seems at this point Deerhunter are creatively unstoppable, yet short of producing something anodyne and Grizzly Bear-like it will be the reason why they will be held up in the mainstream cross-over queue. It’s a perverse and invigorating thought to include Bradford Cox in the next wave of alternative pop stars, but if it can happen to Beth Ditto it can happen to anybody and he definitely has my vote. There’s something contagious about Deerhunter, and these five tracks are to pop music as swine flu is to the World Health Organisation. It is with baited breath we wait, wondering what they’ll do next.