Midway through 2007, someone asked me the usual question-- the one about which records I'd want to take with me to a desert island. The first answer that sprang to mind seemed somehow perverse: Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings? I certainly didn't think this was one of the best, most profound, or most life-sustaining records I'd ever heard, and it wasn't as if I had some great personal attachment to it; I'd only first heard the thing that spring. But it seemed like a lifetime on a desert island would get awfully lonely, and there was something about the album that seemed like a solution to that problem. All the happy massed shouting on a song like "Wham City"! There's plenty of music in the world that conjures up the feeling of crowds, but so much of it feels mob-like and jack-booted, or else it's just hero-worship of whoever's posing on the stage in front. Here, on Spiderman, was at least one song where the crowd felt joyous and inviting, like people celebrating the fact of sharing something. Which seemed about as essential, desert-island-wise, as a good sharp knife.
The press material for Deacon's follow-up, Bromst, talks about the notion of community, and the odd knack Deacon has for evoking it, but I'm not so sure that's entirely the point anymore. Sure, Deacon's method and sound remain mostly the same here; if you feel like you recognize the chord progressions from Spiderman, there's every chance you're right. The guy trades, after all, in movements that feel simple: He creates a dense rush of sound and then guides it through changes as broad as mountains, these shifts that slide together like blocks and burrow straight into some basic pleasure center deep in the gut of the western scale. What's different, on Bromst, is the texture and size of it all. Deacon does what most acts do to follow up a small hit: The palette is richer, the samples smoother, the space larger, the programming slightly less buzzy. Actual instruments, the kinds with microphones next to them, abound-- live drums, layers and layers of mallet instruments, a player piano that goes fluttering up and down the scale like it's stuck in the lobby of an avant-garde department store.
As for community? Deacon's still fond of massed shouting, and the overlapping exhortations of electronically processed cartoon vocals-- and all the pounding of toms and ecstatic chanting can leave much of Bromst feeling like the pagan rituals of some woodland filled with chubby, bespectacled Deacon-gnomes.
But those small changes manage, strangely enough, to change everything-- including the question of the happy crowd. Spiderman felt grainy, cheap, and primary-colored, an overload of cartoon buzz and bodies dancing. The denser, more sedate sound of Bromst shoots off in the opposite direction; it makes Deacon's music feel almost solipsistic, like it's ceased to come out of speakers and now lives deep inside your brain. If Spiderman was for dancing on sticky floors, Bromst feels better suited to sleeping, or contemplating the sublime, or anything else that happens mostly between your ears. As it closes, with the gorgeous "Get Older"-- building from malfunctioning-modem synths into dreamy sheets of buzz on an achy major-seventh chord-- it actually begins to resemble the heavy, romantic sound of acts like M83, or Pluxus, or shoegazer bands, or the 8-bit "chiptune" programmers Deacon shares some kinship with. These are people who make music for getting lost inside your own head.
What makes this change worthwhile is the complexity of Deacon's project. Most of us could have been forgiven, after a cursory listen to Spiderman, for not noticing that Deacon was conservatory-trained. But as Bromst rushes steadily by, mostly avoiding the big crowd-pleasing breakdowns and exclamations of its predecessor, the clearer production lets you sink into the minutae of it-- say, the Steve Reich-style rhythms of different mallet or drum patterns overlapping one another. The music becomes something like a natural process: one clean, simple sweep, but built from an insane complexity of detail. And there's enough to un-knot in there to make this a terrific step for Deacon-- out from the sticky basements into a space where he can try to tackle the sublime.
— Nitsuh Abebe, March 18, 2009