Deerhunter Dresses Up The Music at Black Cat

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Special effects aren't just for blockbuster movies. They're also for up-and-coming indie-rock bands. By drenching vocals and guitars in echo, reverb and delay, Atlanta's Deerhunter turned fairly standard drone-rock tunes into otherworldly sonic delights at Black Cat's backstage Thursday night.

The show was a new beginning of sorts for the self-described "ambient punk" group. It was Deerhunter's first as a quartet after the departure of guitarist Colin Mee, and it also showcased a new side of frontman Bradford Cox. He used to take the stage wearing a sundress and covered in fake blood, but he promised an end to those antics in a recent post on his blog. (Cox lived up to his word, and with the sideshow aspect gone, Deerhunter wasn't much to look at -- but it offered plenty to hear.

Most songs stuck to the basic template of starting out as formless, atmospheric soundscapes that gradually built into shimmering dirges. "Fluorescent Grey" and "Cryptograms" were highlights, as the band created a futuristic racket that seemed almost impossible employing the standard lineup of two guitars, bass and drums. Cox's lyrics were indistinguishable -- they mostly sounded like one big whoosh -- but they worked within the landscape of the songs.

Openers Clockcleaner, a sludge-rock trio that was recently dubbed "Philly's Most Hated Band" by Philadelphia Weekly, gets its kicks trying to get a rise out of audiences. The group found little success doing so in front of a largely apathetic crowd Thursday, though. Singer-guitarist John Sharkey called it "the most boring audience" he had ever played for, and when the band left the stage to middling, polite applause, it was likely the worst of all possible reactions for Sharkey and his band mates.

-- David Malitz

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