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Spiderman of the Rings

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Album Review

Part of Baltimore's growing Wham City collective, Dan Deacon wastes no time establishing his whimsical electronic music sensibilities on what is essentially his breakthrough, Spiderman of the Rings. The title alone perfectly captures his particular brand of hyperactive mad-dash electronica, which seems concerned simply with what sounds good in the moment as opposed to what might be part of a greater rationale; the music's madly impulsive sugar rush of cheap beats and mind-numbing tempos largely fails to leave any sort of lasting impression despite its temporary allure. The opener and strongest track, "Wooody Wooodpecker," delivers enough of an impact to encapsulate the shock-and-awe approach of nearly everything to follow, using its namesake's trademark cartoon laugh in an incessantly looped frenzy to lay a rhythmic foundation. The song's first half builds on that forward momentum, utilizing a blinding arsenal of sounds, cycling repeatedly into double time to create an overwhelming cacophony, which falls suddenly into a lull about halfway through — only to rebuild once more on the back of shimmering synthesizers playing bubblegum chords. It's no wonder that Deacon's music is most successful in a live setting. This is pleasure music to freak out to, an in-your-face assault of sped up beats, manic vocals, and a disregard for subtlety which can often feel out of place coming through a home stereo as opposed to a high-power PA. That's not to say there's a lack of cohesion, however; on the contrary, everything feels very precise and well thought out, which is nowhere more evident than on the album's impressive 12-minute centerpiece, "Wham City." The piece carefully ebbs and flows between an abstract sound collage, a catchy, propulsive refrain, and finally, a stunning drum breakdown, propelled throughout by a resurfacing melodic vocal chant. In all, the first four numbers are strong and strike a winning balance and interplay with one another, with "Big Milk" well situated as Spiderman's only introspective respite from the breakneck pace heard elsewhere. Deacon's exuberance unfortunately becomes repetitive and overly-obnoxious a bit too often in the latter half of the album, which even at its abbreviated length of nine tracks drags on a bit too long. Spiderman of the Rings can be amusing ear candy just as easily as headache-inducing monotony; making this distinction depends on where and when it's played, and just how much uninhibited energy you can take in one dose.


Born: 28 August 1981 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Equally influenced by diverse artists like Devo, Talking Heads, Scratch Orchestra, Raymond Scott, and Conlon Nancarrow, electronic music composer Dan Deacon studied electro-acoustic and computer music composition at Purchase College in New York. While he was a student, he issued his first recordings in small runs on CD-R, including Green Cobra Is Awesome vs. the Sun, Silly Hat vs. Egale Hat (yes, "Egale"), and Meetle Mice, all released in 2003. He later moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and became an...
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Spiderman of the Rings, Dan Deacon
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