Dan Deacon – Mystic Familiar

Mystic Familiar is a glorious, pop-minded return from Dan Deacon

Album Review by Joe Creely | 27 Jan 2020
  • Dan Deacon – Mystic Familiar
Album title: Mystic Familiar
Artist: Dan Deacon
Label: Domino
Release date: 31 Jan

Dan Deacon has always cut a unique figure in the world of experimental electronic music. Where his contemporaries often find themselves mimicking the surliness and self-seriousness of their worst rock-world counterparts, Deacon has constantly sought new ways to push sheer joy and giddy exhilaration upon his audience. Here, he retains that, delivering a colossal yet tender call to push on through in unbearable times.

Mystic Familiar isn’t exactly new terrain for Deacon, more a crystallising of that which he has done so well throughout his discography. After a period working in film soundtracks, it's also a return to more traditional pop structures. In particular, lead single Sat By a Tree is Deacon at his most accessible and streamlined, leaving behind the homemade skronk of his early work but keeping the gift for absolute euphoria totally in tact. Similarly the grandstand bombast of the synthetic brass and whirling arps on opener Become a Mountain creates a pulsing blanket of sheer warmth like few can, despite the lyrics coming on a tad 'new-age corner of Waterstones'.

At the centre of the album is the suite of Arps I-IV, a breathtaking piece moving from faintly menacing glitching into the kinds of hyper-kinetic fidgety glee that he's perfected over the years. It then goes down into a free-jazz saxophone squeak, and back up to a breakbeat whirlwind full of gorgeous processed vocals akin to a sugar rush Sigur Rós. It’s a textural marvel, managing to shepherd all these disparate energies and textures into a piece that at no point upends itself nor overstays its welcome.

It's only bettered by the truly sublime Weeping Birch, which swells from a repeated quiver of strings into a complete enveloping wave of pitter-pattering hi-hats and twinkling synths that reaches levels of sheer, undeniable beauty beyond anything Deacon has ever done.

It’s a superb return to the traditional album for Deacon. He's clearly learned a great deal making soundtracks, producing a record of a grand cinematic scale with a clearer eye on creating emotionally shifting tracks. Yet Dan Deacon maintains his constant look towards salvation and joy and retains an almost incomparable gift for conjuring them in a listener.

Listen to: Weeping Birch, Arp III: Far From Shore, Become a Mountain