Last fall, Atlanta's Deerhunter wrangled an opening slot on several of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' East Coast tour dates. For an unsigned band, it was an amazing opportunity; for Deerhunter, which had just locked down the final details of an album deal with New York indie label Kranky Records, it furthered a reputation as one of the country's most promising bands.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs tour ensured that Pitchfork, XLR8R and other tastemaker publications would certify Deerhunter's talents. But the audiences themselves were more ambivalent.
"Tonight I saw your group in Nashville. Please, STOP MAKING (what might be conceived as) MUSIC!" read a message sent to Deerhunter's MySpace page (www.myspace.com /deerhunter). Other messages compared the group to "a high school talent show" and mocked leader Bradford Cox as "the skinniest man on the face of the Earth."
Yeah, growing up in public can be tough.
Bravely, Deerhunter posted these negative missives on the MySpace page. It took down Cox's gushing dedications to boy crushes (which some, much like Morrissey and "Reel Around the Fountain," misinterpreted as pedophilic dreams) and put up a bio to its new album, Cryptograms. Scheduled for release Jan. 30, Cryptograms trades the lusty punk rock of the band's self-titled debut (popularly known as "Turn It Up, Faggot") for electronic sound art. The album is as mysterious and cagey as the first album was noisy and muddled.
The ambient noise of Cryptograms is wound over several numbers where the quintet's movements -- singer Cox, drummer Moses Archuleta, bassist Josh Fauver and guitarists Colin Mee and Lockett Pundt -- are more pronounced. "Lake Somerset" is lurching grunge, and "Strange Lights" is gauzy psych-rock. "What direction should we choose/We're lost and still confused," sings Cox on the latter. "We walk into the sun/We walk and cannot run."
Some of the tracks, which were completed in late 2005, will be familiar to anyone who followed Deerhunter's many concerts last year. Cryptograms could use a little bit of the band's live ferocity. Sometimes it sounds too dreamy. Around half of the songs never coalesce beyond fevered ambience, an element already emphasized by the hazy guitar fuzz of the excellent "Spring Hall Convert."
The dictionary defines cryptogram as coded communication. Deerhunter defines Cryptograms as a universe of its own making, leaving you to decipher its significance.
Deerhunter plays the Earl Fri., Jan. 19, w/ Brass Castle and Supreeme.