On Rat Film, Dan Deacon's inspired soundtrack to the provocative essay-film of the same name, one of electronic music's most exciting artists delivers his first full record devoted to modern composition. Much as Theo Anthony's film uses rat infestation in Baltimore, MD - the city both he and Deacon call home - as a starting point from which to probe deeply entangled issues of race and class, Deacon's bold and beautiful score takes the listener on an exploratory sensory trip through the city streets.
Between ecstatic electronic-pop albums like Spiderman of the Rings and Gliss Riffer, Deacon has frequently flexed the 21st-century classical muscles he first developed studying at the Conservatory of Music at SUNY Purchase. Rat Film offers the first recorded document of this parallel career – and both as a self contained album and a companion piece to an equally potent film, it astounds. For its soundtrack, made in close collaboration with the director as he built and refined the film's edit, Deacon drew inspiration from recent scores such as Mica Levi's Under the Skin and Mark Korven's The Witch, as well as Philip Glass' raw early work North Star.
Creating an arsenal of samples from sessions with multi-instrumentalists Owen Gardner and Andrew Bernstein of stellar art-rock outfit Horse Lords, Deacon leads us into drone territory on "Reed Clouds" and "Harold's Lament," conjures meditative soundscapes with "Rat Poison," and delivers arguably his most elegant composition yet with "Pelican" (memorably showcasing the shimmering guitar of Steve Strohmeier). Tracks such as "Redlining" and "Map Overlays" transmit palpable evidence of this unfettered creative energy, as Deacon quite literally collaborates with rats.
In a scene at the film's core, Anthony and Deacon mount an interactive performance constructed around three stations. At the first: rats, situated on a triangular table with a theremin at each corner, the rats' proximity to these poles generating sound and causing fluctuations in frequency, pitch, tempo, and light; at the second: Dan, receiving all this data and molding it; at the third: VR headsets, in which wearers navigate 360° video of Baltimore alleyways crafted by Theo. It's an ingenious creative process, and one that generates a multi-dimensional, extra-sensory whole that's emblematic of Rat Film's exploratory spirit.
Dan Deacon's Rat Film offers us a rat-derived world of sound meticulously sculpted for human ears. This is a stand-alone Dan Deacon record that's not a new phase in his career, but rather a triumphant first document of another highly developed expression of his artistry.