DAN DEACON on his new tent, his new album and his new live show

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Dan Deacon at the controls (“photo by Zardoz, as interpreted by James Petz“)


A NEW STAGE
Experimental pop musician/joybringer Dan Deacon on his new tent, his new album and his new live approach
by Jay Babcock

(April 3, 2009)

From Dan Deacon’s page on the Wham City site:

“Hi. I’m Dan Deacon. Before moving to Baltimore I went to college and grad school at the Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase. For the past four years I have been touring a collection of pieces for voice, electronics and audience. In my spare time I enjoying booking shows at various weird places in Baltimore. I’m looking forward to touring less and finishing up a series of pieces for large ensemble. The future surrounds us. Let us begin.”

Dan Deacon has just begun his North American tour following the release of his second album. Released last week by the essential Carpark record label, Bromst an ebullient, anthemic, densely stacked minimalist rave monster recorded with “real” instruments, including a player piano. Bromst is bonkers in the best way: I hear Eno vocals, Koyaanisqatsi-era Philip Glass, Terry Riley, gamelan, Spike Jones, vintage video games, put-your-hand-in-the-air-and-knock-on-that-door techno, organized surges, simple chord progressions embedded in layers of drums and piano notes. (Stream Bromst songs at dan deacon myspace.)

Bromst is a unique album made by a uniquely multi-gifted artist: a class clown from music composition class, a populist intellectual with a fiercely whimsical streak, a serious composer who can elevate an on-the-edge-of-danger dance party into mass communion through charisma, imaginative group gameplaying and a certain fearlessness. If you haven’t witnessed Deacon live, check out the two youtubes included in the text below; in one, audience members sing from sheet music in a basement party; in the second…well, to write about it would be to reduce it. Goosebumps, baby! I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a performing artist so adept in creating group public joy without pandering—or one whose abilities, interests and ethic are so perfectly attuned to what the times call for.

There’s a lot more to say about what Deacon is up to, and why it’s so vital and inspiring. (A good place to start is this extremely perceptive thinkpiece by Rjyan Kidwell; also check out C & D’s interview in Arthur No. 27 with Deacon and director Jimmy Joe Roche about their “Ultimate Reality” film, available here.) I wanna wait to get my thoughts together on all of this til next week, though, cuz this weekend I am venturing for the first time to psychedelic Baltimore to see Deacon and his new 14-piece ensemble perform Saturday night as part of the 6th Annual Transmodern Festival.

But there’s no reason not to post the following conversation now, conducted by phone at 11am on consecutive days in February from two secret locations in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood (thanks Geoff, thanks Jack). Dan was waking up in Baltimore. The first day, midway through an answer to my second question, he confided, “I’m having a weird allergic reaction. The whole right side of my body is swelled up and I can’t open my eye all the way.” But I thought he was talking perfect sense and he was up for it, so we kept on rolling. The following is a condensation from those two conversations; any mistakes in transcription are mine, and will be corrected…

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Arthur: That’s a great, evocative album cover. How did you come up with it?

Dan Deacon: I was camping with my dad this summer and one morning I woke up early, because you tend to wake up early when you’re camping, and the light was coming through the tent and it just looked really nice. I started thinking about tents, as a structure, as a place in which to live, and being a very old, old thing. I thought, I’d love to make a tent, an old fancy European-looking tent that you’d see in a movie like Lord of the Rings, where they have that kind of encampment set-up and some of them are just shitty tents, shantytowns, and then there’s the beautiful one. I realized I knew nothing about making a tent, I know nothing about construction, or sewing, so I designed it on paper first, then started to build it. It became this nightmarish project, but I’m really glad I did it. It’s 10 foot x 10 foot x 10 foot, it’s a hexagon-shaped tent, so it’s ten feet between opposite points of the hexagon, then ten feet straight up. I also wanted something [for the album cover] that could exist in reality, so if I used it in the live show, the audience could have some sort of connectivity to it, which a lot of what the record is about—about interconnectivity and feeling attached to things that otherwise feel abstract or you have no attachment for.

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April 5th – ALTERED STATES Exhibition at Transmodern Festival in Baltimore, MD

ALTERED STATES Exhibition

LOF/T Load of Fun Theatre
120 W. North Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201

Tickets: $5 (tix can be purchased at the door)
Doors Open: 8pm, Performances: 9pm

ALTERED STATES, Curated by Jamillah James for Frontier Projects

Live Performances by Lexie Mountain Boys, Soft Circle (ex-Black Dice/Lightning Bolt), Blues Control (Siltbreeze Records, Brooklyn), Ra Khuit Noor, and New Jedi Order.

Altered States examines the history of collective action, originating in the 1960s with communalism (made families in hippie and freak subcultures), and avant-garde performance, where elements were borrowed from traditional rituals and ceremonial spectacle. This rubric for performance and artistic practice champions a freedom from creative, economic, and social constraints, and de-emphasizes the singular, commodifiable art object as the end-all of cultural production.

The exhibition considers a renewed interest in the aesthetics and performativity of mysticism. Through idiosyncratic performance, borrowed iconography, and the creation of “invested” objects and spaces, the artists in Altered States re-contextualize alterity, or “otherness”, as a psychedelic state of being, and explore the secular, the sacred, and the creative space in between.
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Celebration Doesn't Care About The Vampires Anymore

Baltimore’s psychedelic rock & soul saviors Celebration have two brand new songs up for free download on their website, Celebration Electric Tarot. What’s more, they’re gonna be releasing all their new music in this manner. Once they’ve got enough new songs for an album, they’ll do a proper vinyl release, but if you’re happy with 192kbps MP3s, it’s all gratis when it comes to their shimmering guitar trance workouts. From their manifesto:

We, as Celebration, have felt the continual growth of web culture’s need for barrier-free exchange. We also feel that the traditional methods of releasing music have put too much distance between us. As we see it, the current music business model is crumbling. We believe their methods waste resources and time in a “print for market world” that no longer makes sense. The birth of the MP3 has dreamt the death of the CD format, and so all across the board, CD sales have dropped. What has given way is something so magical and evolutionary, music has grown, that we have only begun to understand the cultural impact of this sharing. So, past the piles of broken CD cases and badly scratched polycarbonate rainbow discs, there lies a fantastic world of freedom –freedom to share instantly with little or no impact on the environment, in a seemingly infinite, eternal and virtually cost free universe of the world wide web. This is our emancipation. Without the need for manufacturing CDs and the danse macabre of the promotional corporate machine, we can be free to release our music when and how we want –no waiting. We know nothing of the marketing world and don’t care about the vampires any more.

For more on Celebration, we would like to direct your attention to Ian Svenonius’s Q&A with the band from Arthur 27 (December 2007). You can download the PDF or purchase a hard copy by clicking here. Visit Celebration’s website to download “I Will Not Fall” and “What’s This Magical”. Read their full manifesto after the jump. (once again via Gorilla Vs. Bear).

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Baltimore Underground Hippie Paper Imagery, pt 1

Here’s the first of a gaggle of posts we’ll be doing of images from newsprint hippie publications from Baltimore, 1968-71.

These are from Harry, which to quote Joe Vaccarino’s Baltimore Sounds: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Baltimore Area Pop Musicians, Bands & Recordings 1950-1980, “was founded in 1969 by Michael Carliner… After a rocky start, when the original staff revolted and walked out on the eve of the first issue’s press run, Harry became the choice alternative free [sic] paper of the Baltimore political and musical communities. Early contributors included Art Levine, P.J. O’Rourke, Tom D’Antoni, Alan Rose and Jack Heyrman. Harry survived many raids, takeovers and other traumatic events to provide alternative and community news at the height of the Vietnam, hippie, yippie era.”

<b>John Waters in a leopard-print dress, ca. Pink Flamingos premier.</b>

John Waters in a leopard-print dress, ca. Pink Flamingos premier.


<b>detail from a stoned full-page collage of in-jokes, including a young Edith Massey and a goof on the idea that Jim Morrison is not dead but in hiding as an ice-skater in Maryland... (more on this later)

detail from a stoned full-page collage of in-jokes, including a young Edith Massey and a goof on the idea that Jim Morrison is not dead but in hiding as an ice-skater in Maryland...


<b>Howdy Duty were lead by Fahey/Denson/Basho associate Max Ochs who has recently been noticed by some younger heads...</b>

Howdy Duty were lead by Fahey/Denson/Basho associate Max Ochs who has recently been noticed by some younger heads...

Harrius – Proud Flesh

Proud Flesh is a 30-minute Western shot mainly in the Dakota badlands by Jenny Graf Sheppard and Chiara Giovando and starring their mothers. It’s a remarkable film, even if it hasn’t been seen much outside of Baltimore.

Until it’s more widely released, there is this trailer: 

And last month, Baltimore’s Ehse Records released the entirety of the soundtrack as an LP in an edition of 300 copies.

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It’s a beautiful thing, made from a private, internal symbolic system and some amazing tweaking of the idea of the Western film and, by extension, America itself.

(Disclosure: although this writer made small contributions to the film and soundtrack, my hand is neither in the till nor on the tiller.)