RT: 3, 6, 7, 11
Release Date: 10/22/17
I’m mostly familiar with Dan Bejar’s work through the typically wonderful and manic work of the New Pornographers, rather than his solo(ish) work as the head of Destroyer. The Pornographers have had a pretty consistent feel and evolution to their sound over the years, but, after listening to some of Destroyer’s back catalogue to contextualize this album, that musical through line is much harder to find. Bejar apparently really likes to experiment and explore different sounds, whether it’s the string orchestra based Poison Season or the synth-heavy Kaputt or the more traditional guitar rock of Destroyer’s Rubies. ken seems to follow a bit in Kaputt’s footsteps, taking the synth-based sound and expanding it in a much bigger and darker way. Bejar has said this is probably the most goth you’ll ever hear from Destroyer, and that feels like a pretty apt description for the tone of this album (and also makes it a fun companion piece with this year’s Goths from the Mountain Goats). Most of the songs on the album have an incredibly foreboding tone to them, with a wall of sound, frequently driven by a pulsing bass drum and tense synth chords, making some of the darker songs almost claustrophobic to listen to. “A Light Travels Down the Catwalk” has an incredible atmosphere created by this effect, turning a song about the runway into a tense, stressful affair with the constant wall of music giving you no room to breathe or relax until the very end of the song. The album isn’t all doom and gloom though. There are a few rays of musical sunshine that pop through, with tracks like “Cover From the Sun” and “Stay Lost” breaking through and providing a pleasant tonic to prevent the listener from getting completely overwhelmed by the overpowering mood of the heavy standouts on the album. Unfortunately, even though this album is a sonic masterclass in mood and tone, I really can’t see it as one I’ll listen to on a regular basis. I think it’s going to require a very specific mood from me to want to listen to (probably rainy and grumpy), but when that mood hits, this will be amazing to be able to go back and revisit.