Dan Deacon: Mystic Familiar (Domino) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020  

Dan Deacon

Mystic Familiar

Domino

Feb 04, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Mystic Familiar, Dan Deacon's first new album since 2015's Gliss Riffer, is far and away his most personal work yet. A single cursory listen reveals several surprising new elements at play. First is that his reliance on noise and sheer volume has all but dissipatedat times, his layers of sound still swell and threaten to overflow, but these moments typically communicate beauty, not harshness.

Second is that the work put into his new career as a film score composer is very apparent. While the aesthetic palette of Mystic Familiar is not sonically far off from Gliss Riffer, the effect of its instrumentals hews much closer to that of contemporary composers like John Adams, or even Philip Glass. In this way, it's almost more of a follow-up to Deacon's 2012 conceptual song-suite America. Nowhere is this more evident than on the four-track "Arp" suite that constitutes the middle third of Mystic Familiar; it's the centerpiece of the album, and possibly the most beautiful stretch of tracks Deacon has yet produced.

Finally, the third and most striking new element of Mystic Familiar is that throughout the entire album, Deacon sings in his natural, unprocessed voice. Those familiar with his back catalog know his electronically filtered vocals as an instrument; it is one part of a whole, another layer amidst the rest that fit together like a puzzle piece. Yet his naked vocals on Mystic Familiar are surprisingly easy to adjust toas it turns out, Deacon's accent and cadence have always translated electronically, and organically, they're just as recognizable. And the change-up has the effect of finally positioning Deacon himself as this world's creator, master, and star of all proceedings. "Become a Mountain," indeed.

In keeping with its more intimate, refined sound, Mystic Familiar's concept is one of personal struggle and growth, and ultimately fulfillment. Utilizing spiritual strategies inspired by creative figureheads Brian Eno and David Lynch, Deacon used the writing and recording of this music as a type of therapy, with its central idea being the presence in everyone's lives of a Mystic Familiar, which is a sort of personified conscience. Deacon's journey is one we all hopefully embark on: moving on from a state of anxiety and self-doubt to one of mindfulness and self-compassion.

The best thing about Mystic Familiar is how the beautiful composition of the music reinforces the power of the lyrics' message. That the journey of this album is so personally yet universally applicable, to Deacon, and to all of us, is quite a gift. (www.dandeacon.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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