This is the age of the rock-star DJ. Where once anonymous technicians lurked behind turntables and electronics, now there are household names (more or less) with trademarked haircuts and masks. These guys (and they are all guys, aren’t they? Why is that?) play all the big music festivals, pack huge halls on their own tours, and occasionally appear on the covers of national magazines.
So, if Skrillex is a rock star of electronic dance music, Dan Deacon is the indie-rock version — he’s beloved by a small but committed and knowledgeable audience, and his music is perhaps less fun but arguably a lot more interesting.
Deacon first gained national and international recognition five years ago with the release of Spiderman of the Rings, a record full of breakbeats, electronic drones, and weirdly distorted vocals. The goofy videos and celebratory concerts that followed gave him a reputation for party music. But Deacon went to grad school for music composition and has continued to compose music in a more classical vein. His records didn’t stay goofy for long. This year’s America is his most serious yet, anchored by a half-hour-long, four-part suite called “USA.”
Inspired by both his travels and by the Occupy movement, Deacon has grown increasingly outspoken politically. Still, his habit of distorting vocals makes it hard to tell if any of that has showed up in the music. “USA,” which could be his grand statement, mostly does without vocals. At some points, it also does without electronics or beats. So there you have it: Deacon is the rock star of electronic dance music who’s not rock, not quite a star, and not always electronic or danceable. That’s just about perfect.
DAN DEACON: the Irenic, Friday, October 19, 7 p.m. 619-624-9335, $12–$14