Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP

(Kranky; 2009)

By Calum Marsh | 17 June 2009

Deerhunter are less a great band than a convincing facsimile of one. Their records represent studied exercises in appropriation and synthesis, each new disc Kranked out a further iteration of increasingly threadbare material, repackaged immaculately, the results uniformly digestible. They are pervading contributions to an image of Deerhunter as fundamentally mechanical, the productions so precisely calculated and routinely delivered as to render each strangely lifeless. And we accept the band’s latest perfunctory offering, the fleeting Rainwater Cassette Exchange, but we do so with trepidation borne from expectations and familiarity.

There’s a sense in which Rainwater Cassette Exchange feels not just redundant but distressingly irrelevant; whether it’s too brief, too soon, or too similar, it simply doesn’t offer much of real interest to anybody beyond Bradford Cox completists, that frothy-mouthed mass. Fluorescent Grey (2007) functioned as a kind of Cryptograms (2007) addendum, the label having gone so far as to package the two together on vinyl, and heard in succession they sound like a reasonably cogent whole. Microcastle‘s (2008) accompanying record Weird Era Cont. served to entice fans to buy the physical album after its former half leaked too early, and the two fit together in a way that made sense. Where does Rainwater Cassette Exchange slide in? Short answer: it doesn’t. Longer answer: it exists as a hold-over, something transient and fluffy.

The self-titled opener yawns and stretches with tropical garage malaise, Cox murmuring about destroying his mind and body, which isn’t so fluffy, but lyrics were never the essence of Deerhunter’s muddy jams anyhow. “Disappearing Ink” acts as Rainwater‘s “Nothing Ever Happens,” its opening drum line temporarily, uncharacteristically loud and clear and the band’s trademark fuzz relatively toned down. It’s a testament to their aesthetic consistency that the minor tweaks defining “Disappearing Ink” make it such an immediate stand-out rocker even though “This sounds like the Strokes” could probably get your finger bitten off. The record stumbles slightly on the languid “Famous Last Words,” a plodding pot-rock number too lazy and indifferent to go anywhere special. Deerhunter are careful to avoid falling into torpid ruts like this, but then there’s always been a risk and reflection of lethargy buried within Cox’s dopey affectations and the band’s occasional noise inertia. “Game Of Diamonds” is no more emphatic, but the breezy acoustic guitar and Cox’s rasps of laying “drunk on the Bowery” provide just the right kind of charm that hoists the band up at their best.

Closer “Circulation” is a highlight, but it has the unfortunate effect of inciting more excitement and interest than any other track here—when it ends after a few brief minutes, it’s hard not to feel cheated. You’d be amazed how quickly fifteen minutes can zip by, even in the company of this often-sluggish band, which again raises questions about the point of this release. Longtime fans have already heard the band do this exact thing better, many times over, and those new to the group are better off with practically any of the other six Deerhunter-related releases since 2007, especially Lotus Plaza’s far superior The Floodlight Collective. And isn’t there another Atlas Sound record due out this year? Maybe we should just accept Rainwater Cassette Exchange as a negligible testament to their working parts and operational systems. The mimesis is nagging, but Deerhunter are the fucking T-1000 of indie rock—they simply cannot be stopped.