Deerhoof are underground legends. They have been driving experimental rock for over twenty years. On Thursday they delivered their 14th (!) full length studio album, Mountain Moves, packed with an eclectic assortment of musical styles and over half a dozen features.
Mountain Moves is all over the place. It’s a sort of transient rock album with experimental ideas frequently twisted throughout. The songs are around two minutes long and show signs of musical ADD that either demands attention or turns the listener off. “Come Down Here & Say That” explores hip-hop elements with Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab, and features hip beats paired with spacey backdrops. The next track “Gracias a la Vida (Violeta Parra)” changes gears completely, abruptly introducing chamber music with spanish lyrics.
Most tracks have cutesy vocals that are shoved up against aggressive garage rock explosions with no transitional intent. The tempo drastically changes in the middle of many tracks. Mountain Moves seems driven to throw the listener out of their comfort zone. It’s confusing, and it can certainly be a challenging listen.
“I Will Spite Survive” is a highlight of this record, and features a fun dancing electric melody placed perfectly against an ascending 00’s era heavy guitar riff. Jenn Wasner’s vocals blend into a pleasant harmony that completes this chill rock jam. Another great track is the groovy “Begin Countdown”, which has sharp drums and funky guitar effects set over comfortably dark wandering bass riff. “Freedom Highway (The Staple Singers)” is a brief but surprisingly enjoyable western influenced blues rock track near the end of the album. This song is slightly more verbose, and touches on some American political ideas.
Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals provide a sense of identity to Deerhoof. It’s the common thread that winds through twenty years of musical experimentation. Die hard fans may see her voice as a cornerstone of Deerhoof’s sound, however newer listeners may find her uniquely high pitched voice polarizing. Her lyrics are obtuse, barely intelligible, and gratingly repetitive. Tracks that feature a guest vocalist are a much needed break from her high pitched, over pronounced monotony. She can be exhausting to listen to.
These are not amateur musicians however. Deerhoof is intentionally difficult. In the end, Mountain Moves is art rock. It’s entirely unconventional and makes no effort to appeal to a broad audience. If quirkiness and eccentricity are what interests you, this album will resonate with you. Otherwise, it just feels messy and inconsistent.