Photo: Theo Anthony (Domino Records)

Dan Deacon: Rat Film

For an artist like Dan Deacon so intensely involved with constant maximalism at the expense of almost all other endeavors, this is a left turn.

Dan Deacon
Rat Film

Dan Deacon’s music sounds like scrolling through hundreds of emoji’s while your phone updates and time is going 2x, and you are on a train that Steven Seagal just hijacked, and you are high and its a cartoon. On “Rat Film”, for the first time, Deacon sounds like he is breathing. Pulsing, unrelenting bass drums have been replaced by patient movements. It’s alarming as a fan to hear something so different, and the
Rat Film Original Soundtrack has little to offer fans of Dan Deacon or fans or soundtracks. Separated from the film it is unable to generate interest.

The soundtrack starts off with “Redlining” an acoustic, piano-driven track with echoes and space filling up much of the runtime. Slow harmonic movements attach themselves at the end. The track sounds like a Max Richter song stripped of its purpose and melody. “Horn Phase” pulses and slithers for five minutes like a less sinister “Stranger Things” addition.

Elsewhere we hear laid-back guitar and cymbal flourishes (“Pelican”), alley echoes (“Ocme”), slivers of post-acoustic meanderings (“Harold”), creepy reverb (“Seagull”), and violin musings reminiscent of the
There Will Be Blood OST (“Harold’s Lament”). The best track in the collection, “Calhoun”, uses skeletal versions of some of Deacon’s tricks. The room echo of what sounds like a xylophone creates space and tension. Deacon patiently waits and builds up blankets of stretched white noise around, adding in Harold Budd synthesizers to minimalist effect.

“Rat Poison” as well, slinks around like a Brian Eno midi concoction, he even peppers in little sound flowers, blooming randomly every few seconds. “Video Game” sounds like a Trent Reznor score from moment one with the thumping industrial hits and menacing overtone. The track comes up a bit short, mostly feeling like an indie caricature of an Academy Award winner.

The concept of a soundtrack released apart from the film works on a few levels — one, if the soundtrack is exceptional with or without fandom of the film —
Blade Runner is the ideal example. The second workable soundtrack is when people love the movie so much they just want to relive it at all cost — Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings. The third would be an artist that people love, fans arriving to listen not because of the film but because of who made the soundtrack.

For an artist so intensely involved with constant maximalism at the expense of almost all other endeavors, this is a left turn. The thing people love about Dan Deacon, myself included, is his rejection of anything non-hedonistic in his music. It is always a push for pleasure, for dance, for movement, a kinetic exploration of anthropology. Let’s get back to that.

RATING 4 / 10