Deerhunter’s eighth album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? features more acoustic and Baroque influences with existential, trance-like lyrics as opposed to their trademark alt-rock style. It is fundamentally tethering itself to environmental and societal decay with scenes of dissatisfied workers immersed and trapped in a barren wasteland that has not quite yet “disappeared” but instead hangs on by a thread of confused nostalgia. Recorded in Texas, like the open space of a desert, the album itself is also open to us in that it poses questions and leaves us hanging between songs without answers.
With lyrics that fuse colours into a slow-burn of elements, such as the “Orange clouds” which have toxically “stained” the wind, the second song released from the album ‘Element’ is a song concerning industrialisation in the same wide-open space. Depicted by singer-songwriter and frontman of the band, Bradford Cox, as “an elegy for ecology (a landscape done in toxic watercolors)”, Deerhunter fuses an erosive palette of reverbing sounds into a still portrait.
Deerhunter fuses an erosive palette of reverbing sounds into a still portrait
Unlike the fire-element-invoked lyrics, the tune itself is tranquil and akin to soothing waves of repetitive, yet dominant, harpsichord and heavier acoustic guitar chords; these are “laid out in lines” like the fate of those “surviving for that final day”. Likewise, the song is in a state of void, as also laid out in the album title, with its cyclic chords waiting for a hindered predestination which seemingly never occurs: a predicted earth-shattering which exists only as an earth-flattening suspense confined within a joyous melody.
Preceding the command “Come down from that cloud, and cast your fears aside” in ‘Death in Midsummer’, released last October, ‘Element’ alludes to clouds from a personal and uncertain forethought by interlinking them with industrial motifs and the disintegration of the natural skyscape. ‘Death in Midsummer’ unravels this disintegration by its use of softer, dwindling piano, contrasted by its scraping guitar and caustic drums, at the end to “walk around and you’ll see what’s faded”. ‘No One’s Sleeping’ is an escapism from the “orange clouds” of ‘Element’ with its rupture of saxophone and psychedelic guitar, transporting one to the “great beyond” and the industrialised skyscape fusing into a “golden void”.
‘Death in the Midsummer’ is inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917 wherein which the song includes the same Bolshevik notions of supporting urban workers who “worked their lives away”. The anti-capitalist lyrics within ‘Détournement’ also “fade” into this – as workers fusing into the landscape- with its title referring to Letterist International: a group composed of radical artists in the 1950s with foundations of Dadaism and Surrealism. By using filtered vocals that overpower the string-meets-synthesizer instrumentation, it conjoins a multitude of voices that acts as a mediator between people across distance as a revolutionary force. However, these vocals also resemble an alien, perhaps hinting towards mechanistic workers blending into masses. This is another question left unanswered.
the vocals of ‘Détournement’ resemble an alien which hints towards mechanistic workers blending into masses
The song itself is an anomaly to the rest of the album- a notice board pin-pointed by wandering “lines” posed as greetings to places in an imagined world “drawn piece for piece”. There are references to a higher state of being here, as featured within ‘No One’s Sleeping’, amidst deconstructed motifs of places such as more fertile European gardens containing the French rain which inspired ‘Tarnung’. The latter title translates to “camouflage”; interestingly, the rain is depicted as a shelter itself, as opposed to having the need to be blocked. It is the vast wasteland which seems to pose the larger threat. ‘Greenpoint Gothic’ is itself a “point” within this imagined world. Being an entirely instrumental piece of tiptoeing xylophone riffs and long-held synthesizers, it is an exhalation within stifling, unanswered calls.
Throughout the album, the notion of fading is repeated which abides to the album title of not fully disappearing, yet lingering in a state of nihilistic void with musing attempts to find a way out. However, the intricacies of the album itself offer a different way out; one of appreciating the world created in the album in the form of a tragedy, with the music itself as a catharsis.