Deerhoof seems to have found relative cohesion on Milk Man, something like the difference between a murky, half-remembered dream and a lucid one. The album makes good on the promise audible but not realized on last year's Apple O'. Where Apple O' was experimentally indulgent, Milk Man hangs together as well as anything could for an eclectic-to-the-core unit like Deerhoof.
The songwriting voices of Satomi Matsuzaki and Greg Saunier have stopped contradicting each other, and the result is like a cut-and-paste soundtrack to a movie without subtitles, a kind of aural touching-the-elephant, with enough left out of the narrative and music to be evocative of memory and longing. Matsuzaki's vocals are still sky high (though she reveals a greater range), and the minimal English-as-a-second-language lyrics still have an art brut beauty to them. But there is a loose theme running through the album. It seems to have something to do with a milkman figure, a king, a castle, a rocket and bananas, though linear storytelling is not the goal here.
Drenched with church organ sounds and layers of keys, found samples, and lots of noises from other worlds, the album also plugs in drum machines as often as organic kits. Electric guitar is seldom in the front, and the band even dabbles in Spanish-language electronica on "Desaparecer." Ken Kagami's cover art is worth the price of admission alone, and Deerhoof still wins the "brevity is beauty" award for its occasional spare couplet. Witness the entire lyrics to the equally tersely titled song "C": "Who/On the water wander far."
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