ALBUM REVIEW: Deerhoof – ‘Mountain Moves’


ALBUM REVIEW: Deerhoof - 'Mountain Moves'

Prolific Experimental Noise Punk band Deerhoof is releasing their 14th installment of surreal sonics entitled “Mountain Moves”. The album released on September 8, 2017 and is a marked departure from their prior album 2016’s “The Magic”. That album was noted for its blending of glam metal, Punk and Noise, yet included a cover of The Inkspots, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire”. This time Deerhoof offers up an insightful whimsical, avant-garde slice of pop. It is the widest ranging and most approachable recording in their discography, which is saying something considering the wide gyre of genres the band has formerly utilized. “Mountain Moves” is loaded with melodic sounds informed by chamber music, hip hop and Avant Garde Jazz. There are 15 tracks that unspool rapidly over 40 minutes demanding the music be tight and succinct.

Deerhoof formed in San Francisco in 1994. They have remained influential and prolific while insisted on musical independence. Their debut album 1997’s “The Man, The King and The Girl” established many of the band’s signature attributes; clamorous guitars, jingle like vocal harmonies, mythical lyrics, exaggerated gestural playing style, Lo Fi DIY recording techniques, and a left wing political stance. Their wide palette of musical abilities has caused the members to be highly sought after for composing, producing, performing and writing outside of Deerhoof on numerous projects. The current members of Deerhoof are band founders John Dietrich on guitars, Greg Saunier on drums and Satomi Matsuzaki on vocals along with more recent member guitarist Ed Rodriguez.

Mountain Moves” is a splendid soundtrack to current politically liberal angst. The release is certainly inspired by the results of 2016 US presidential election. The purpose of the album seems to be looking beyond the media cacophony to discover what actions will actually bring about a different result in the future. Deerhoof throughout the various tracks creates a moodscape that comforts the despondent. They also proclaim that those of the liberal persuasion are not vanquished but with heads unbent will survive to conquer on another day. These individuals can gain strength from the truth that no political outcome is permanent.

The release begins with an inescapable feeling that too little was done too late and this has placed civilization on an unavoidable collision course with dystopia. “Slow Motion Destination” and “Con Sardino” are both a bit defeatist in nature with the lyrics in “Slow Motion Destination” offering the refrain which underlines the despair, “the future you could have saved”. Both songs are not overtly confrontational but the glossy pop vocals with their “disconnect from reality” vibe make the songs seem scarier and more unsettling. For fellow political travellers resolve returns with “I will Spite Survive” and “Come down here and Say That”. Both of these tracks are a call to arms against the current US administration with lyrics like, “You on TV you’re expendable” from “I Will Spite Survive” and “Who is the coward?” on “Come Down Here and Say That”. Both tracks also offer up an excellent punk, funk amalgam with “Come down Here and Say That” channelling the Talking Heads. Other standouts that underline the theme of the release are “Your Dystopic Creation Does Not Fear You” and Palace of Governors”. The latter song has this fantastic refrain “You won’t live in this house forever” as the spiral keyboards and Bjork like vocal build a dramatic selection while offering the knowledge that this political situation will come to an end.

As to be expected from Deerhoof they utilize a full gambit of genres which span from the unfettered Jazz jam session of the title track “Mountain Moves” to the glitchy cacophony of discordant strings on “Sea Moves”. “Singalong Junk” featuring Xenia Rubinos is another fantastic track that shows off Deerhoof’s singular ability to take discordant elements and weave them into something spectacular. The covers of “Freedom Highway” and “Small Axe” are also very apt selections fitting into the mood of the release. “Freedom Highway” by The Staple Singers is a protest song presented by Deerhoof in a bouncy, jaunty rendition with a great Rockabilly structure. On their cover of Bob Marley’s “Small Axe” they indulge in one last fist raising opportunity, pointing out in the final lyric, “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe”, as they figuratively drop the mic and leave the building.

Deerhoof with “Mountain Moves” pools all the band’s strengths for maximum impact. The band is now twenty-three years into their existence and faces the backhanded compliment of critics who take for granted that they will always offer high quality on each release. The band seems unfazed by this situation and takes advantage of their impeccable instincts and undoubted musical skills to create another brilliant album. Those familiar with Deerhoof’s excellent musical permutations will not be disappointed by this more approachable release. Deerhoof may be an acquired taste but for those willing to giving them a listen there is a unique and arresting experience in store.

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