destroyer kaputt
  • FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 2011

  • Posted by: Derrick Wiest

In the two years since deciding to kill off his music career, Dan Bejar, frontman for Destroyer and part-time New Pornographer, has released two EPs, and now a full length album as well, in addition to his contribution to 2010's Together. Given the man's enigmatic nature, this should probably come as no surprise, and to his credit, the declaration was not made without consequence: both Bay Of Pigs and Archer On The Beach came as radical departures from his work on Trouble In Dreams and before. If any question remained as to whether the change would render the next evolution of the Destroyer project, Kaputt provides the affirmative.

The lyrics, which have traditionally been the focus of Bejar's recordings, have not altered too drastically. They retain their elusive, meandering tone, and are as rife as ever with cultural allusion — in case you missed the title track's reference to Curzio Malaparte's novel from 1944, you may still catch the nod to Starship in "Poor In Love", or that the delivery of "sha la la wouldn't you say" in "Bay Of Pigs" sounds vaguely like "Part Of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. In general, however, the vocalization is more sparse and relaxed; unlike the urgent bombardment of "Shooting Rockets" in its rising moments, the words here careen through sonic space, carried on the wings of the ever present saxophone.

And here's where things get interesting: throughout Kaputt, Bejar revisits the structure he'd been developing up through Trouble In Dreams and adapts it to a different lineup. The usual, guitar-heavy rock arrangement has been scrapped for layers of of jazzy brass and ambient synths. The resulting effect bears a striking resemblance to 1980's soft rock, aided by the supporting female vocals, though you won't find any vanilla love songs here. The juxtaposition of the nostalgic, smooth jazz sound against Bejar's challenging lyrics and distinctive voice creates a markedly ethereal effect; comparisons to Ariel Pink would not be unwarranted, except for the absence of novelty samples and deliberately lo-fi production techniques.

The problem with Destroyer is the extent to which, while rewarding patient listeners with an ever-growing lexicon, which has helped to spawn a devout cult following — and drinking game — it does little to put the uninitiated at ease. When Bejar sings on "Blue Eyes" that "I write poetry for myself", I'm inclined to believe him: Destroyer aspires no more to the comfort of the casual listener than he does to being avant-garde, which is to say, he doesn't appear to care either way. Kaputt feels like, predominantly, a record about Bejar challenging himself — a departure from a well run dry — and, in typical Bejar irony, what may be his most challenging record to date happens also to feel like his most at-ease.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
MP3: "Chinatown"
Destroyer on Merge Records

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