Deerhunter: Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP

Photo by Bary Klipp

The impressive thing about this release is that, even on an EP of accessible pop songs, Deerhunter retain their skewed, inimitable shape.


Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP

Label: Kranky
US Release Date: 2009-05-18
UK Release Date: 2009-05-18
Artist Website

There are several reasons why Deerhunter are one of the most exciting young bands to emerge from this decade, but it seems that, between talk of genre-discarding experiments and Bradford Cox's intensely compelling persona, many people seem to forget the most simple, obvious one: Cox and company know how to write a damn good tune. And if the band's often-elusive, straight-ahead pop sensibilities were obscured in the haze of Microcastle's grand fragility, they're fully felt on Rainwater Cassette Exchange -- five compact songs that don't seem to care much what their neighbors are up to, each self-sustaining, each undemanding, each perfectly enjoyable.

It's clear why none of these tracks found a home on Microcastle, or even its more schizophrenic companion album, Weird Era Cont. While in the past Cox has talked about how accidental and chaotic much of the creative process behind Deerhunter's albums are, it's obvious that they're intended to be listened to as just that -- albums. On all of the band's Kranky releases (I'll just respect Cox's wishes and pretend Turn It Up Faggot doesn't exist), the songs interact with each other in ways that are far from accidental, passages of soothing ambience acting as a tonic to Cryptograms's most unsettlingly aggressive moments, Microcastle's mid-album triad of "Calvary Scars", "Green Jacket", and "Activa" being fragments of such a fragile disposition that they feel as if they're clinging to each other for support.

Even so, Rainwater Cassette Exchange is to Microcastle as the Flourescent Gray EP was to Cryptograms; while none of these songs would fit into the deliberate architecture of its parent album without screwing things up a bit, Microcastle's chilly autumn breeze envelops each of the songs here to the extent that you'll look out your window and wonder why the leaves on that tree look so healthy and green. But where Microcastle often got its point across through gently drifting vapor, even the slightest song on Rainwater Cassette Exchange -- the vaguely Indian "Game of Diamonds" -- is a substantial, tangible thing that doesn't feel at all in danger of being blown away by a strong gust of wind. Most of the songs on this EP, particularly "Disappearing Ink"'s relentless garage rock pulse, feel like they've been spawned by Microcastle's most cathartic moment, the remarkable "Nothing Ever Happened". In other words, no sparse piano interludes here. These songs know exactly where they want to go, and even in the case of the sound collage that caps things off at the end of "Circulation", they seem hell bent on getting there quickly.

Of course, even though most of these songs could hold their own as rousing noise rock anthems if Deerhunter were to dispense with the dreamy shoegaze fuzz and turn up the guitar crunch (which they absolutely shouldn't), we never get into anything overtly aggressive here. There's aggression, sure, but as with most of Deerhunter's material, it's more in line with the unsettling negative emotions that are always pricking the edges of our minds than anything like a fist to the face, and the lines between melancholy and placidity are blurred by the ever-present haze. Cox's ghostly echo lays at the center of it all, and it revels in its ambiguity, soothing and unsettling at the same time, gentle naivety and harsh reality blending into one another: "Do you believe in love at first sight? / Oh yes my son I did the first time / Oh yes my son I did before I died / And now it does me no good / Here on the other side". His lyric is death-obsessed and romantic without ever straying into affected gothic territory, and even when he's all but obscured by the rest of the band's formidable assault, he's the element that gives Deerhunter their skewed, inimitable shape.

The remarkable thing is that, even on an EP of accessible pop songs, Deerhunter effortlessly retain that shape. Sure, there's nothing formally groundbreaking on Rainwater Cassette Exchange, and Deerhunter's identity has solidified to the point that we're no longer surprised that they're capable of peeling away the ambient fuzz and writing a concise slice of pop. But hey, a damn good tune is still a damn good tune. And in this case, we've got five.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.