In the years since 2015’s majestic Gliss Riffer, between scoring multiple film projects and working on his own videogame, art-rave wizard Dan Deacon has further honed his distinctly hyperactive and psychedelic composition style and applied it to a deeply conceptual album concerning the matters of death, life, the spirit and the dimensions beyond. But don’t worry. Dan is certainly still riffing the gliss — and thank goodness for that.
Sonically, Mystic Familiar picks up where Deacon left off with the ever-popular “When I Was Done Dying” nearly five years ago, beginning with the kaleidoscopic album opener “Become a Mountain,” a single that introduces the album’s titular character and narrator. Here he sets the tone for the record with a track dealing directly with the idea of carpe diem. Pointedly, the track’s existential/meditative-leaning lyrics are accented with Deacon’s pervading technological themes, which are specifically grounded in the juxtaposition of these two lines: “On this day before me / Will I seize it or scroll?”
The record’s lead single “Sat By a Tree” — alongside its prelude, the meandering “Hypnagogic” — are further reminders to live in the moment, and act as introductory chapters within the realm of the living before we enter the death cycle of the record.
Lending further to his penchant for four-part suites, Deacon’s foray into his mid-album aquatic sequence begins with “Arp I: Wide Eyed” and “Arp II: Float Away,” two songs that usher the listener sweetly into the afterlife. The sequence really takes off in the multi-dimensional “Arp III: Far From Shore,” a percussive and spacey trip underscored by Deacon’s granular vocals and a variety of instruments (up to and including an erratic saxophone solo). The “Arp” suite concludes in “Arp IV: Any Moment,” which finds the former track’s elements cascading into a scattered and robotic synth collage, unravelling gradually until there is nothing left.
Firmly planted in the rococo, subsequent tracks “Weeping Birch” and “Fell Into the Ocean” both serve to adorn and to carve out space for the “mystic familiar” to guide its subject into the beyond. Following that, Deacon’s epic seven-minute album closer “Bumble Bee Crown King” showcases a shift from the record’s spunky beginnings to orbital arpeggios, fading out sweetly to begin the cycle of life again.
Dan Deacon has always served as a conduit between the synthetic and natural worlds. Now, on Mystic Familiar, he also serves as the conduit between life and death. Here we witness the light and the dark feeding into each other — a beautiful, endless, psychedelic cycle; a multi-coloured ouroboros that just happens to be super cute. For fans that saw the culmination of his artistic prowess in Gliss Riffer, Mystic Familiar will fulfill many of the same needs, but with even greater balance in execution. (Domino)