AMERICAN rockers Deerhunter were at The Ritz on Friday night (November 6), Quays News entertainment reporter Emily Ingram was there for us…

When it was revealed that the latest tour from ethereal American indie rockers Deerhunter was to be supported by their very own vocalist’s solo project – that is, the equally as dreamlike Atlas Sound – it’s quite possible that many were quick to dub the group as somewhat egotistical. Yet, as the lights dimmed over the intimidatingly hip crowds encased within Manchester’s Ritz, what instead became rapidly apparent was an overwhelming sense of deep passion for sound. This was projected quite clearly by the lone artist onstage: eccentric frontman Bradford Cox.

Having shifted at the last moment from a more intimate venue to somewhere fairly sizeable, it was quite obvious why. Needing no introduction, the music that began to cut through the hushed buzz of pre-performance audience chatter could only be described as an utterly immersive soundscape. Whilst opening with ‘Shelia’, a tender yet urgent trek into affairs of the heart, Cox quickly captured the wandering attentions of the audience; with surprising ease and a subtle note of confidence, he demonstrated his ability to command echoing tremolos of mixed synth and vocal around the huge space, as one song was allowed to fade seamlessly into another. The brief opening set continued to display a multitude of fuzzy noise-rock tones and soft spoken lyricisms, building a wave of ambient music that felt truly emotive and raw, yet simultaneously complex and calculated.

Following a brief intermission (to which many paid a trip to the well-stocked bar), Cox returned. He was backed, at last, by the rest of the band, who wasted no time in formally introducing the audience to their latest LP ‘Fading Frontier’, released just weeks prior. Contrary to the obscurely swooping tones of Atlas Sound, some of the songs that followed showed promise of a little more structure – particularly ‘Breaker’, a downtrodden romp through loosely jangling riffs that verges indie-pop. Naturally, after some innocently ill-informed banter about Manchester football teams, the sense of sharp normality was quickly replaced by that of the comfortingly other-worldly.

The group engaged in performing a plethora of both new and old tracks, taking the opportunity to completely transform many of the latter into the carefully elongated soundscapes that had been present in the performance before.  The peak of the evening arrived, however, when renegade track and avid fan favourite ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ collided headfirst with a fresh rendition of Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’. In a storm of blurred, screeching vocals, fast-paced percussion and sharply duelling guitars, the two songs merged in the most electrifyingly flawless manner, as each member worked to violently juggle the contrasting melodies. The audience, on the other hand, were simultaneously captivated and entertained, each member of whom were either staring or dancing in awe of what appeared to be unfolding before them.

A quick breather then led to a wholly different sort of encore, during which a rendition of the softly tragic ‘Agoraphobia’ and its tremulous instrumental predecessor provoked a whirlwind of subtle emotive power and altogether more gentle vocal quirks. Finally – after breaking their curfew several times over – Cox stated that the band would close with a ‘traditional’ cover of a native Mancunian artist, before each member gradually launched into an innovative indie-rock version of ‘Why Can’t I Touch It?’ by punk pioneers Buzzcocks.

In short, the combination of accomplished indie rock outfit Deerhunter and their quietly confident solo frontman was nothing less than audibly beguiling. But perhaps the most admirable thing about this group is their immortal and unquestioning dedication to improving and expanding their craft, culminating in a stark eagerness to engage in musical innovation as much as they possibly can.

By: Emily Ingram

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