Listen carefully, and Dan Deacon's two albums for Carpark Records function as aural diaries of the experimental musician's life at the time. If his dance-crazed 2007 breakthrough Spiderman of the Rings can be read as a dictionary of his new digital language — speed-freak Woody Woodpecker samples, processed chipmunk vocals and whack-job sonic manipulations acting as his nouns, adjectives and verbs — then Bromst, his ambitious March follow-up, is a stab at the great American novel.
"When I was writing SOTR, I was living in Wham City," Deacon says, referring to the notoriously unruly Baltimore DIY artists' collective his music helped put on the map. "I think [it] reflects that 'Who gives a shit?' sort of attitude. Like, 'Let's throw a party, it'll be awesome, who cares if those people think it's stupid, we know it rules.'"
It didn't last. The Wham City crew was evicted in 2007, and the scope of Bromst in turn reflects a post-party Deacon, who holds a graduate degree in music studies from New York's Purchase College, putting his classical training to work. The hourlong, 11-track LP adds organic instrumentation (piano, glockenspiel, guitar, live drums) to his template of ecstatic build-and-release song structures, resulting in a more accessible, yet no less kaleidoscopic record, one that breathes as often as it breaks it down.
"I remember the first tour I did after getting evicted," Deacon says. "I felt like the world and the safety net I was in had crumbled or disappeared. I was playing this really party-based music, and I was like, 'I'm not really in the mood to be partying right now.' It felt good, but at the same time I wanted it to be something more. I wanted it to be beyond an escape."
SOTR earned Deacon a legion of fans, many drawn to sweat-drenched shows in alternative spaces where the 27-year-old performed solo among his throng, forming a circle of samplers and synthesizers that from above looked something like the eye of a storm. That kind of intimacy didn't suit Bromst's android-symphonic grandeur, however, and for this tour an ensemble of performers, culled from fellow Baltimore bands like Ponytail and Videohippos, joins the fray.
On April 1, eight percussionists, five keyboardists and a pair of guitarists boarded a converted biodiesel school bus for a six-week, cross-country trek. The tour has the group performing in warehouses, clubs, churches and theaters. Asked on the eve of the launch if he had any expectations or fears, Deacon didn't hesitate. "I have no expectations; I have many fears. Best case is that we're really tight, it sounds good, the audience reacts properly." And the worst? "The exact opposite," he added, laughing.
"I think I rode the (former) idea for about as far as it could be taken by playing on the floor at a festival like Coachella," he says. "I realized I needed to start making the show curtailed to larger audiences, and I needed to compose with that in mind. I think that started shaping the idea of Bromst as well — big and vast and open."
Dan Deacon with Future Islands, Teeth Mountain and Lovey Doveys
7 p.m. Mon., April 13
Tulane University, Woldenberg Art Center, Freeman Auditorium; www.tulane.edu