Dan Deacon is a distinguished entity among electronic artists; certainly far more experimental than his radio-friendly dubstep contemporaries and a composer for a number of films to boot. His work has continued to flourish and develop since his days at Baltimore’s Copycat Building with the Wham City collective, veering in the lane of contemporary classical music in the early 2010s and leading to a number of performances with orchestras and music conservatories across North America. It has been his unique live shows above anything else, in fact, that have become his calling card throughout his career.
Now that continued upward spiral leads us to Mystic Familiar, Deacon’s first burst of new output since Gliss Riffer in 2015. “Become a Mountain” opens the affair, sparked by sharply staccatoed piano with classical layerings topped off by Deacon’s easy voice, building through sweeping swaths of keys until blowing open into an all-encompassing orchestral composition. The interlude “Hypnagogic” consists of spacey, Easterly synths likely inspired by Deacon’s own meditation rituals, sort of like Steve Miller Band’s “Space Intro” on Fly Like An Eagle but more oriental. The synthesized festivities spill over into “Sat By A Tree”, perfectly merging Deacon’s electronic inclinations with his deep-seated indie background.
Next is a four-track odyssey, numerically arranged under the name “Arp”, presumably a reference to the address resolution protocol of the Internet given the overwhelming computereyness of the record. “Arp I: Wide Eyed” lays out the groundwork of calculated digital noise accompanied by rapid percussion and Deacon’s contrastingly soothing vocals, while “Arp II: Float Away” sees the technological chaos unfold into full swing and enter the realm of the atmospheric with an ethereal background bed adding new, tasteful dimensions to the track in its latter parts. “Arp III: Far From Shore” opens with brooding synth and wounded saxophone and builds back up to speed from a free-falling reprieve, while “Arp IV: Any Moment” descends back down into the malfunctioning abyss from a momentous, bottled-up peak of energy.
“Weeping Birch” starts like a combination of “Become A Mountain” and “Baba O’Riley” and winds outward into Deacon’s vast electro-classical universe. “Fell Into The Ocean” melds the usual tremolo-laden synthesizers, first with an ensemble of horns and then with some slight choral accompaniments to doubly hypnotic effect. “My Friend” largely travels the prior path, blending the various elements and worlds explored on the record together in anticipation of the finale. “Bumble Bee Crown King” takes things out in the form of an extensive instrumental coda, once more building up the entirety of the thematic landscape to watch it collapse, disintegrating into the meditative bliss on which so much of the record was founded on to begin with.
Mystic Familiar is a record that embodies its title and basks in creativity. Dan Deacon takes projecting themes of growth and change and ties them in with not only the immediacy of the present but the rapidly-moving world that we all know and have grown accustomed to. You could indeed say that it is a record, and an artist carefully in tune with the pulse of the world, as Deacon has been for 17 years of artistic venturing. As the globe turns and art continues to sophisticate, it’ll be a pleasure to see what comes out of the depths of his ever-creative mind next.