Saturday, September 26, 2009

September 26: Deerhoof, "Apple O'"

Artist: Deerhoof
Album: Apple O'
Year: 2003
Label: Kill Rock Stars

Truly unique bands, those that bear little resemblance to anything else before of after them, are exceptionally hard to find. Furthermore, within these bands that make it a point to plot their own course, those that create a sound that is constantly listenable and high quality are perhaps the most rare of musical species. When it comes to completely distinctive sounds, few bands are more unique and instantly recognizable than San Francisco, California noise-rock visionaries, Deerhoof. Combining mesmerizing, swirling vocals with a stunning contrast of chaos and calm, there is truly nothing that can prepare you for the sound of the bands' music. Born out of the early 1990's art-pop-rock explosion, the band has been crafting their distinctive tone and it is now one of the most potent and beautiful sounds in music today. Often classified as "indie rock" due to their label affiliation, the truth of the matter is, if one uses such a label for Deerhoof, then no other band in the world can be labeled as such; as no other band sounds even remotely like them. Having release ten sensational albums over the past two decades, Deerhoof's finest moment is captured on their breathtaking, clever, and truly unique 2003 album, Apple O'.

Recorded in a single, nine hour recording session, Apple O' perfectly presents Deerhoof's wide range in style, with some songs showing their soft, meandering side, and others are full force noise-rock gems. Often times straddling the line between musical experimentation and pure chaos, Deerhoof often sound like a louder, more high energy version of Radiohead. What sets aside Apple O' from the rest the bands' catalog is that, this time around, there is a focused concept behind the entire album, and it is an overall more cohesive effort. The albums' central theme is that of creation, and the band offers musings on offshoot ideas like love and sex. After understanding this loose concept, one sees the album in a completely different light, and one realizes that Deerhoof has, in fact, perfectly captured these feelings and emotions within their seemingly chaotic music. The contrast between the upbeat, sonic whirlwinds and the almost cathartic, more lulling numbers play in perfect harmony with one another, making for one of the most amazingly unique musical experiences ever recorded. This ability is, in many ways, the true genius behind the music of Deerhoof. Each member of the band brings some instrumental ability, and the dual vocals enable the songs to sound even further from anything else.

With only four band members, it is often stunning with the sheer amount of volume and sound that is presented. Redefining the "classic' rock quartet, Deerhoof present two guitarists, a drummer, and a bassist. This doubled guitar gives their songs much of their signature chaotic "twang," and the pair work brilliantly with one another. John Dieterich is joined on Apple O' by new guitarist, Chris Cohen. The two have an obvious chemistry, and it is extraordinary to hear them push one another to the furthest reaches of their talent. The addition of this second guitarist is another aspect that sets this album aside from all of the groups' previous work. Though the playing of bassist Satomi Matsuzaki is often understated, mostly due to the focus on guitars, she weaves amazing basslines around her bandmates. Often holding the mood of the songs together, Matsuzaki proves time and time again that she is as talented a bassist as she is a singer. The core of the Deerhoof's music is often within their ever changing, staggered time signatures. Rarely staying within any given tempo for long, drummer Greg Saunier is easily one of the most talented drummers of his generation. Both his ability, as well as the bands' love for rhythmic diversity is rarely more apparent then on the song, "Panda Panda Panda." Creating controlled musical chaos is a truly difficult task, yet due to the seemingly boundless talent within the members of Deerhoof, every song on Apple O' s absolutely fantastic.

While one cannot argue that the music of Deerhoof is beyond unique, the vocals of Satomi Matsuzaki are equally, if not moreso unlike anything else. With her almost falsetto, high soprano range, her voice often blends in so well, that it sounds like another instrument, beyond a vocal sound. The unorthodox, often lurching and staggered rhythm with which she sings are as unique and intriguing as her voice, and it is one of the most important elements in the bands signature sound. Sometimes pushing to the point where the lyrics are almost unintelligible, every vocal delivery contains so much unfiltered emotion, that often times the lyrics are completely unnecessary to understand the song. However, the lyrics are, in fact, consistently brilliant throughout all of Apple O'. Much like the music, the lyrics are often seemingly scattered in random arrangements. One of the clearest examples occurs during the bands' re-telling of the "Garden of Eden" story, when on the song "Adam+Eve Connection," Matsuzaki sings, "I said god, in the trees it's lovely...but it's lonely, with a bone...he will try to clone me, make a mother...there will be another me..." It is this ability to wave intricate verse into the stunningly creative musical structures that makes the music of Deerhoof so awe-inspiring, and the voice of Satomi Matsuzaki is absolutely the perfect vehicle for delivering the words and emotions.

Deerhoof are unquestionably one of the most unique and original bands of their generation. With a sound that is almost undefinable, the group truly embodies everything it means to be a musical artist. Throwing all conventions and stylistic norms to the wayside, Deerhoof constructs musical landscapes with sounds and rhythms that have never before been explored. The fact that the group is able to discover new musical territory within the modern age is refreshingly surprising, and their albums never fail to be original and intriguing. The addition of second guitarist Chris Cohen on Apple O' proves to be the key element in the bands' next step, and the manner in which he interacts with John Dieterich is truly stunning to experience. Few drummers possess the dexterity, openness, and raw talent that it takes to stick with the music of Deerhoof, and Greg Saunier uses every song to make his case as one of the finest drummers in the entire history of music. Topped off by the tremendous vocal performances of Satomi Matsuzaki, Deerhoof take the idea of art-rock and noise-rock and fuse it into a sound that is truly awesome to experience. Though there is no "bad' record from Deerhoof, it is their 2003 release, Apple O' that stands as their greatest musical achievement, and it is by far one of the most uniquely incredible musical creations in the entire history of music.

Standout tracks: "Flower," "L'Amour Stories," and "Panda Panda Panda"

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