Album Reviews

Dan Deacon – Wish Book Vol. 1

on December 12, 2012, 8:00am
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A direct connection between Dan Deacon and Girl Talk is puzzling, but here we are, considering that very fact. Sure, both Deacon and Greg Gillis are consummate party-starters with notoriously rowdy live shows, but their wheelhouses, until recently, weren’t exactly within shouting distance. Gillis took in everything from the outside world and refracted it through a neon mirror, every piece of pop history fused into one ecstatic moment; Deacon, on the other hand, seemed to be pulling wackadoo whimsy out of the deepest recesses of his mind, layering versions of himself to infinite joy. But that changes to a degree with Wish Book Vol. 1, Deacon’s “DJ style release” which mashes up a rogue’s gallery of trippy musical signposts.

Girl Talk releases succeeded not only in their heart-pounding energy, but because it was undeniably fun to pick out all of the samples. Listening to Night Tripper was like finding familiar faces in unfamiliar settings, the ultimate best case scenario for inviting all of your different groups of friends to hang out together on a dancefloor. Deacon’s version of this exercise proves a bit more difficult. The choices for inclusion tend toward the more obscure, as Gillis didn’t dig into the Oneohtrix Point Never or Lightning Bolt crates for his sets. Moreover, Deacon seems to twist and tinker a little more than fit into place. Wiz Khalifa’s iterations of “Black and Yellow” drift away breathy and slow, Beyoncé’s iconic “Single Ladies” chorus gets twisted downward a few octaves, and the ubiquitous whoomps from Psy’s “Gangnam Style” reverberate into a spacy black hole.

More than anything, this collection proves how unified Deacon’s vision as an artist is: not only can he build from the ground up, he can take other people’s work and still make it sound like his own. Wish Book Vol. 1 isn’t a Lego kit with detailed instructions on how to build the Solar Snooper, its fluorescent greens and reds snapping together majestically. Which is to say, these aren’t pieces that anyone would consider tailor-made for each other, though those fluorescent bricks would fit nicely into the psychedelic insanity. He gives you the entire list of artists involved, and you’ll still be scratching your head at exactly where in the haze Dirty Projectors sit. At times the original artists fade away, leaving behind Deacon’s artistry.

The weakest moments come when a comparatively lightly effected rap verse or rock riff come in through the mist, leaving everything else too far behind it. The rest of the mix announces that this is Deacon’s world, so why is this Ludacris verse popping into “Someone Area (Rod)”? Sure, it’s sped up to the point of near gibberish, but that delivery is Ludacris and no one else, and “Stand Up” doesn’t exactly disappear from memory despite its strange surroundings, namely Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”. The first few seconds of “Oscillating Diamonds” fits a chirpy take of Rihana’s “Diamonds” onto The Beatles’ “Come Together” without adding anything new to either. Sure it’s great to hear Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe” fluttering alongside Merrill Garbus’ yowls, but the moment at which Minaj’s voice holds like a skipping record over that beat and a high-pitched Animal Collective vocal achieves pure bliss is where the rest pulls off a knowing smile.

As such, “Beez Eagles” doesn’t always hold the same kinetic energy of the rest of the tracks. The track’s first few minutes feature clippings from Minaj and 2 Chainz’ “Beez in the Trap” and The Misfits’ “Where Eagles Dare”, the two trading the dominant role in the mix. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, but nothing like the surprisingly cohesive blend of Devo, Lightning Bolt, and Notorious B.I.G. later in the track. The souped up combination of “Gut Feeling” and “Hypnotize” loops into a nerdy swagger, all propelled into hyperdrive by thundering rhythms.

Nothing can compare with those moments when the portal into Deacon’s wonderland opens. The combination of a tabla-driven sample credited to “unknown artist recorded in jaipur, india” and a chopped Marvin Gaye sample in the opening to “Virgin Uncle Salt” hits a trippy mysticism matched only by his solo work. The fuzzy burying of LCD Soundsystem’s “Someone Great” into the midst of a Oneohtrix Point Rod Stewart wave pool (with a dash of Avey Tare shouting) feels like raising a piece of the Aggro Crag while cartoon deer prance around majestically. The success of this album is partially owed to the artists he samples, but the moments of ecstasy belong solely to Dan Deacon.

Essential Tracks: “Gangrimes Style”, “Someone Area (Rod)”

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