Album review: Deerhunter’s ‘Fading Frontier’

Annie Zaleski

Three and a half stars

Deerhunter Fading Frontier

Last December, Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox was hit by a car and seriously injured, after which, he’s said, he “lost that manic urge that I used as fuel” for the band’s previous LP, 2013’s Monomania. For many bands, losing that edge would be creatively catastrophic, but Deerhunter isn’t like most bands. Cox’s version of settling down, as heard on new album Fading Frontier, is to dig in and confront the uneasy tranquility head on. Only “Snakeskin,” a funk-soul strut with desert-dry guitars and fried grooves, is as aggressive as Monomania’s abrasive sonic frenzies. Otherwise, the album’s textures are subtle, delicate and curious—from the jangly guitars of “Breaker” to the vapor-like analog keyboards on “Ad Astra” to the pulses of digital percussion driving “Living My Life.” What’s going on beneath the surface is often far more interesting. The ’50s-reminiscent waltz “Take Care” features atmospheric synths from Broadcast’s James Cargill, while “Duplex Planet” burbles with electronic harpsichord from Stereolab’s Tim Gane. On “All the Same” Cox sings, “Take your handicaps/Channel them and feed them back/Till they become your strengths/Hollowed out, it’s all the same,” and Frontier’s shapeshifting underscores how well-equiped Deerhunter is to handle life’s slipperiest moments.

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