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In Short: Destroyer ‘Kaputt’

I’ve been putting off reviewing this album because I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it justice with mere words.

Because words as a form of expression seem awfully inadequate after you’ve listened the entirety of ‘Kaputt’, Dan Bejar’s ninth album as Destroyer. It’s a record concerned overwhelmingly with constructing meaning and emotion above that of language. Lyrics are used comparatively sparingly, and when they are it is almost always in a post-modern sense; they are deliberately mismatched and nonsensical.

Much more significant to ‘Kaputt’ is its musical construction. Like most of Destroyer’s work it draws heavily on the whimsical sounds of the early 1980s, even leading some to call it ‘soft jazz’. I must admit that when I first heard Destroyer’s music I thought it sounded like the type of music you would hear in an elevator or waiting room. But that’s part of the charm of ‘Kaputt’: Dan Bejar has taken a genre of music so decidedly uncool and so often dismissed and made it overwhelmingly and inescapably cool.

It’s a complex beast of an album, but yet it’s never intimidating and is actually surprisingly accessible. Smatterings of fluttering flute and smooth saxophone litter the record, but no song is dominated by a single element. It’s the tapestry that stands out, not the threads. My favourite song on the record for example, Suicide Demo For Kara Walker, begins structured around a floating flute line that lulls you into a dreamlike state before Dan Bejar’s velvet drawl takes over the song. It is a ravishing song, as relaxing as it is melancholic.

The closing song, Bay Of Pigs, is somewhat of a magnum opus at eleven dense and complex minutes, seeming to me like it is structured entirely around the one effortlessly cool line of “As apocalypses go that’s pretty good — sha la la — wouldn’t you say?” which occurs just before the  driving synth kicks in. It’s a song that will make you question every other time you’ve ever used ‘epic’ to describe a song.

‘Kaputt’ is the type of album that comes around far too rarely. It is quite simply a masterpiece, layered with so many meanings and so many strands of thought that to deconstruct it would be impossible. It’s experimental and post-modern and self-aware and so many other things. But above all else, one thing is clear: this is art.

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