Deerhunter has come a long way from the unholy racket of 2005’s Turn It Up Faggot or even 2007’s Cryptograms, a notable—if often impenetrable—slab of sonic experimentation. Over the past year or so, the band and its individual members have dropped a slew of albums documenting their metamorphosis into the current torchbearers of noise pop, with a greater emphasis on pop with each passing release.
The band clearly takes major sonic cues from My Bloody Valentine, but where that band’s hazy output would conjure blissful impressions of post-coital ecstasy, Deerhunter’s music is just straight-up haunted. Ghosts of the past, echoes of childhood nostalgia, are woven into the very fabric of their records, and when that childhood is spent largely hospitalized due to the effects of Marfan syndrome—as vocalist Bradford Cox’s freakishly elongated frame can affirm—those echoes aren’t always the sunniest of memories. Which isn’t to say that the band’s forays into pop are ineffective; the band’s reinterpretation of the early 1960s—the era of Phil Spector and saccharine girl groups like the Ronettes or the Shangri-Las—is a refreshing respite in a world that seems to have forgotten pre-British Invasion pop music.
This collision of sugary pop and noisy exploration is cleverly embodied in the EP’s titular reference to an outdated sonic medium, the cassette. The band even went as far as producing a tour edition cassette tape of Rainwater Cassette Exchange. Most of my earliest experiences with music involve cassette tapes, and that same nostalgic vein is likely to be struck in the rest of the band’s audience—most just old enough to remember the twilight of the cassette age. And Deerhunter’s distorted sonic sensibilities, in the same way as My Bloody Valentine before them, can often sound like the eerie tonalities of a warped cassette.
Three of the EP’s five tracks clock in at under three minutes, and the other two aren’t much longer, so Rainwater Cassette Exchange can leave a bit of a “there-and-gone” sensation for the first few spins, but soon the dreamy pop of the title track and the garage-inflected highlight “Disappearing Ink” take root. The set climaxes with “Circulation,” a catchy segment of indie rock that could easily go toe-to-toe with anything from last year’s brilliant Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. The track eventually devolves into over a minute of unsettling sound collages featuring snippets of old radio broadcasts and the chatter of children. It leaves a rather autumnal impression for an album released at the beginning of summer, but something tells me I’ll still be spinning it come October.