Signal Kitchen + Festival of Fools Present:
Dan Deacon (Festival Of Fools After Party)
w/ Mikaela Davis and CRWD CTRL
Saturday, August 3, 2019
21+ $17 ADV // $20 DOS
With the success of Dan Deacon’s 2007 album Spiderman of the Rings, came an opportunity for the electronic-music iconoclast to increase the breadth and depth of his entire musical project. Deacon moved from self-contained computer music to orchestral epics. His interactive live show, honed in DIY spaces, was taken to museums and concert halls. He frequently expanded his performances to include a horde of side musicians. Gliss Riffer, an entirely self-produced record of almost all electronic sounds, is a return to Deacon’s Spiderman of the Rings-era process. He calls it “easily the most fun [he’s] ever had making a record.” After a string of large ensemble projects (including 2009’s Bromst and 2012’s America) Deacon longed for the “simplicity” of the days when he did nearly everything himself. So he made plans to sequester himself in his studio and conjure an album from the sketches and songs he had begun in the back of the van on the European leg of the America tour. Those plans were upended when he received a last-minute invitation to tour with Arcade Fire in August. Rather than lose momentum by pushing back his recording schedule, Deacon continued to make the record on the road. “I was mixing and arranging in the green room before sound check and each night back at the hotel.” Deacon said, “On days off I’d find a studio to track vocals or mix. When a studio couldn’t be found I dismantled a hotel bathroom, sealing the vents with towels and using all the bedding to turn it into a control room.” This is his first record to showcase his newfound appreciation for his vocal cords, an appreciation he gained after going through an extended bout of laryngitis. “I started thinking about how the voice is an instrument that expires,” he said, “and that made me want to make an album with the voice more exposed.” And that he did. While Gliss Riffer contains all the instrumental layering we’ve come to expect, the vocals are mixed with a prominence (“Feel the Lightning,” “Learning to Relax”) and, at times, a clarity (“When I Was Done Dying”) that have never been heard on a Dan Deacon record before. All the vocals are performed by Deacon himself, even the female voice on “Feel the Lightning” is the product of vari-speed recording techniques. This album also marks the first time Deacon replaced his digitally realized parts with analog synthesizers, giving Deacon the opportunity to experiment with synthesizers in the same way he experimented with strings and wind instruments on America. Deacon travelled to Asheville, N.C., to record with Moog’s at-the-time-unreleased Sub 37 analog synth. Gliss Riffer is the first record in the world to feature the instrument. Despite being predominately electronic, Gliss Riffer’s sonic palette is informed by his post-Spiderman material. The Disklavier, a MIDI-fed player piano first heard on Bromst, is present here. (This time around, Deacon ran it so hard it broke.) Cross-rhythms suggestive of America’s orchestral opus “USA” and Deacon’s art music work (including a Carnegie Hall performance and film score for Francis Ford Coppola) are also in evidence. What Gliss Riffer shares with Spiderman of the Rings as a musical experience is an aesthetic directness and ecstatic energy. Gliss Riffer trades in exuberant, uncontained fun. Lyrical images of lightning, oceans, lakes, and roads crop up frequently as stand-ins for freedom and self-realization. The tracks were started on the ever-changing landscapes that greet a touring musician. The lyrics, on the other hand, were mostly written in Deacon’s studio, a room with no windows and no air conditioning in Baltimore’s sweltering summer where it was easy to imagine being somewhere else. So while Gliss Riffer is all about fun, it’s figured dramatically. It’s a euphoria tempered by yearning and set in defiance of life’s nagging anxiety. “Happiness takes time,” we are reminded by tremolo vocals in the middle of the supremely danceable “Mind on Fire.” The bliss on this record is well-earned.
Mikaela Davis is the kind of songwriter who routinely defies expectations. The 25 year-old artist is a composer of striking maturity. Her arrangements deftly combine elements of rock, folk and pop, and her vocals display a wisdom and a ruefulness that belie her years. Davis’ instrument of choice is the harp, which she has played since she was eight years old, right about the time she could actually get her hands around the instrument. A native of Rochester, New York, she spent her formative years in youth orchestras rather than in garage bands and later earned a degree from the Crane School of Music.
Though Davis is clearly well-versed in the classical canon and is accustomed to performing in a recital setting, her approach to the harp is an unorthodox one. She often employs her instrument as a pulse, a rhythm or as texture as muscular as a guitar’s. Even in high school, Davis was thinking outside the box in regards to her instrument: Despite her rigorous schedule, she often managed to do a little weekend outdoor busking at a local market with a ukulele-playing friend.
Rochester-based Brian Moore, producer of Fortune Teller and Mikaela’s 2012 self-titled debut album, recently told The Boston Globe what it was like to experience her music for the first time: “She had the personality, and she’s obviously talented at harp and songwriting. I think the unique thing about Mikaela is she could stand alone with her songwriting and her vocals, but combined with what she can do technically on the harp — hearing that was just a shock to me.”
“I think a harp can do anything,” Davis declares. And so, as her recordings and live shows already indicate, can Davis.
Behind the decks since the turn of the century, CRWD CTRL knows many names and locations. From South Beach Miami, to Downtown Denver, San Diego, Albany, Milwaukee, NYC and Boston, this traveled DJ and musical talent has as much musical smarts as mileage covered. Everything from classic soul and extensive vinyl knowledge, to contemporary and future house/tech/hip-hop vibes, the taste is comprehensive and well-acquired. One fan best sums it up: “You seem to always pick the beat that I could listen to for hours and still keep grooving.”