Dead Oceans/Merge, 2010

Even from such a strange and wonderful musician as Dan Bejar, and his continually evolving group Destroyer, this is a bit unexpected. Up until now, Destroyer’s Rubies had always seemed to best sum up Bejar’s mostly solo project nicely; music tipped with opium, lyrical vagueness and profane riddles. His melodic beatnik poetry slam over indie prog-ish rock.

This is something differently, entirely. Hints of acid-jazz wash over each of the nine tracks on Kaputt. Saxes and flutes manoeuvre through the graceful 80’s pop melodies and breezy synth undertones. It’s musically as tight of a concept album as you’ll get without there actually being a strong ideological theme tying everything together. This is largely due to the one element that doesn’t drastically change from previous work, Bejar’s vexing and intriguing vocals. Words float through the music like benchmarks and audible embellishments, crafted from the inside out rather than outside in as would be the norm amongst the clichéd folk singers.

And this is where the record flourishes, lyrical analyzing aside, once everything blends together and it’s taken as a whole. All things considered, it might be Bejar’s best work, and is certainly his most beautiful. “Chinatown” bursts forth with imaginative sound scapes in the form of keyboard arpeggios and synth hits, a stray sax and trumpet, and light percussion. One of the album’s highlights is “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker”, a melancholy eight minute opus that begins with a Rippingtons-esque electric/acoustic guitar intro, morphing into a jazz flute solo and finally ending with Mangione horns and piano while Bejar seems to muse on topics beyond the listeners grasp — “Now that you got it all wrong/Now that you got it all backwards, girl/Enter through the exit and exit through the entrance/When you can” right as the flute re-enters and slowly dissolves along with the rest of the song.

The funny thing is, this is music you might hear in the muzak speakers in a 24 hour grocery store. Bejar borrows elements of the low-brow, campy, and even just plain laughable music of the past and makes them, inexplicably, fantastic. It seems as if Bejar has authored a post-modern art record in reverse, starting with the smooth jazz, funk and easy listening of the past and then grafting his own songs into them instead of vice versa. Fittingly, the record closes with “Bay of Pigs”, the least retro and most experimental cut of the bunch, and ends in a spastic array of guitars and rhyme, a reminder of Bejar’s flair for the craft and ongoing control of the entire mess. And while most shrewd listeners won’t be surprised at his ability to construct such a masterful record, it will probably surprise many as to the channels he chose to get there.