"At some point, when it is made, I will explain this record, word for word, I swear to God." Such is the promise delivered by Destroyer, on "Grief Point", although I must admit, I have my doubts. Aided by the character he's spent his career in music developing, the shadowy vagabond with a penchant for wordplay, Dan Bejar ranks among the most elusive figures in rock today. His lyrics, notorious for their references to literature and other songs, refuse to be interpreted, and an explanation from the man himself, who rarely submits to interviews, seems unlikely at this time.
Indeed, "Grief Point", Side B of Destroyer's latest album, may be as close as we get for a while. Loscil provides the ambience, repeating synthesizer chords and a handful of sound effects, which lend a cinematic quality to Bejar's spoken word. With a determined but unhurried gait, Destroyer takes shelter in what feels like a dimly lit parlor. The door creaks shut behind him as he settles in and, sparking a cigarette, he proceeds to share his thoughts on his work. Bejar sounds at his most vulnerable here — or should I say Destroyer, since the distance between the artist and the character remains uncertain. "I have lost interest in music," the man confesses, which seems perfectly in line with Bejar swearing off his art last year. And yet, we have a new EP.
Ambiguity takes a different form in the title track, "Archer On The Beach". Tim Hecker adds his own form of music to Destroyer's vocals and a handful of chords. A combination of thunderstorm, heavy gusts and crashing waves results in discord to an artful effect. "Careful now, watch your step, in you go" Bejar sings, as if coaxing the reader into the abyss. Although the verse repeats itself, the lyrics shift subtly, "ash king" becoming "ass king", or "ash queen", and the archer's arrows, "stuck inside a peach", soon becoming "out of reach". Destroyer's playing mindgames here, and the result is intriguingly chaotic.
It's nice to see Destroyer taking some risks, an odd sentiment, if you consider his career. Bejar has never come across as self-conscious, even while he condemns his art and seems to almost deliberately alienate his listeners. He may be the most divisive member of the New Pornographer, but even this he takes in stride. Perhaps it isn't all an act — Destroyer may truly not care what you think, but he clearly cares about his work, to the extent that he'll move in a whole new direction simply to keep from stagnating. Archer On The Beach
may be the least accessible album of an already inaccessible artist, but it also stands as a testament to how far he'll go to develop his craft.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Destroyer on Myspace