Listening to Dan Deacon is a tour of what can happen when the computer is played as an instrument rather than a correcting tool for voice and techno. While the old school of music wax nostalgic for a time when bands could not autotune their beats, and let’s face it, there is a lot of that out there today, Deacon and a few other experimental artists are moving past supercharging the pleasant sounds we are familiar with and expanding into the next frontier of music through painstaking time and commitment.
Deacon’s style is harmonious electro-chaos. If Grimes succeeds in turning ethereal into a genre, the two composers would probably be sorted pretty close to each other. Mystic Familiar packs in a lot of elements and it takes several listens through the album to appreciate the full complexity building into a heavenly chorus. There is a lot going on, combining piano strokes, alien and xylophone-reminiscent synthesizers, a robust string section of his own making, echoed vocals hitting the high and low notes, and a litany of electronically rendered sound without ever spinning off the rails. Most of his work is a faster pace, but for today’s content-addicted youth, the speed of Deacon’s music feels like a soothing backdrop to the times we’re living in.
Deacon’s more than seventeen years of experience really shows in his latest work. While his first studio album Spiderman of the Rings introduced his raw talent, Mystic Familiar raises the caliber of his discography through refined precision and clarity. Mystic Familiar is clearly electronic, but there is a classical composition to it as if it is meant to be listened to in a grand auditorium while leaving the audience in awe. He is a solo artist, but he composes such intricate ballads composed with several musical lines all merging into one glorious ensemble.
After listening to the album over and over again since its release, there are no select singles to pull out and separate into playlists. Each song leads beautifully to the next and Deacon clearly built the album with a cohesive experience in mind. Like a digital-infused sunrise, it is beautiful with every rotation. Mystical Familiar flows between calming and energetic while fluctuating between the wide medium available through electronic production. Deacon continues to weave together a collage of disparate sounds that meld together in a soothing reverb. Part classical, part cyberpunk, Deacon is a pioneer of his genre with a lot more symphonies in store for the future.