Dan Deacon’s new album, ‘Mystic Familiar’, is awe-inspiring but often overwhelming

Dan Deacon’s new album, ‘Mystic Familiar’, is awe-inspiring but often overwhelming

Words by Michael Vince Moin

This is a journey.

The extensive, obsessive scale of electro-pop mastermind Dan Deacon’s latest record Mystic Familiar is awe-inspiring and at times, overwhelming. The Baltimore-based musician employs waves of modular synths to shape programmed drums, create vast textures and mould otherworldly effects into dreamscapes that are undoubtedly beautiful, but eventually become tiresome.

The paradox of this album is Deacon’s production and composition contrast heavily with the album’s pacing. From the start it feels like the listener has been thrust into a hyper, 8-bit recital of ‘Canon in D’. It’s at times unclear what Deacon is trying to express, writing what sounds like beautiful, cathartic songs that express themes of loss and life, only to bury them with a dense production.

The vocals are barely there throughout Mystic Familiar, channeling the vocal style of early Animal Collective that doesn’t work in his favour. It feels as if at 38, Deacon is still anxious about his voice and lyricism. Which is a shame, because his lyrics are beautiful… after you Google them.

The most impressive parts of the record are when real instruments work in tandem with Deacon’s use of modular instruments and there’s a little more breathing room. This is where Mystic Familiar soars – where moments of surreal beauty can be found scattered around Deacon’s neurotic production. Otherwise, it feels like a claustrophobic affair.