Deerhunter at Le Poisson Rouge

Post Author: Armin Rosen

It’s been a week since I witnessed Deerhunter’s set at (Le) Poisson Rouge, and I’m not entirely positive my hearing has recovered. Appropriately, perhaps: going to a really loud show is like being yanked into some incomprehensible world where living with a 120-decible clanging in your ears is so great that you just have to pass the experience along to a crowd of total strangers. To be aurally beaten into this demented state of mind-and indeed, to enjoy it–is one of the great masochistic pleasures of live music, as is the realizing that the post-set ringing in your ears is just the sound of the real world re-aligning itself with that temporary, incredibly loud one.

It took them an unusually long time to synchronize Tuesday night, and not just because of the decibel level. I’m sure the coda to Strange Lights was probably a taut 3-5 minutes, but it felt much longer than that–even in a live setting (with a mildly malfunctioning sound system, for the first half) Deerhunter’s sound retains a richness and sonic depth that is disorienting in the best possible sense. Granted, it’s difficult to appreciate just how carefully-constructed Deerhunter’s music is when it’s played in a cramped club: the looping sounds noisy rather than delicate, the layers seem to run together rather than augment each other, and Bradford Cox’s arrestingly understated vocals are simply another shrill ingredient in the sonic stew. But with Deerhunter none of that seems to matter–the noise isn’t there for shock value. It’s actually doing something.

Their relatively short set was a case in point: the instrumental in “Never Ever Happens” was as ecstatic as ever, “Agoraphobia” retained its creepily upbeat feel, and a track from the band’s accidentally leaked companion disc to Microcastle was in line with their more accessible and greatly improved songwriting. DIY veteran Cox looked thrilled to be playing in front of such a small audience (this was one of the more intimate Deerhunter shows I’ve seen), but those days might be over for him: I don’t expect to hear random suburban 10th graders whistling Deerhunter after Microcastle officially drops in October, but it wouldn’t really shock me either.