Read Stereo Sanctity's Original Microcastle Review Here
Weird Era Cont., the bonus disc housed within the Microcastle CD case, will unfortunately be relegated to left-over/B-sides status for most listeners, when in fact it is of such a piece with the album proper that I'd go so far as to say that it is just as integral to the entirety of the album as the 1st disc is to setting the tone for the whole of the Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. project. Taken as a whole experience, this may very well end up the best single release of the year.
While the 13 tracks of Weird Era Cont. still fall in line with the more structured, indie-rock oriented sounds of Microcastle, bits of the old Deerhunter make a welcome return as well, employed in a slightly less confrontational but more strategic fashion than previously suggested, as to blur the line between the more formless work of Cryptograms and the direct power of Microcastle. So in a way, I may even prefer Weird Era since the ambient, drone-y, more experimental Deerhunter fascinates me to no end. Bradford Cox and crew pay an uncanny amount of attention to detail in everything they do, and Weird Era is predictably laid out as it's own fully formed album. There are ambient interludes, instrumentals and spoken-word pieces stitching the record together, yet it's all in service of this more confident and streamlined approach.
"Operation" is one of the best Deerhunter tracks period, positioned directly after pulsating opener "Backspace Century" and just before the brief segue instrumental "Ghost Outfit". Sister tracks "Vox Celeste" and "Vox Humana", which are separated by the beautiful ambient interlude "Cicadas", are both mid-album highlights, particularly the latter, which features a spoken word narrative by Cox, hiding behind a chiming intrumental backdrop. The swooning wordless harmonizing of "Focus Group" (another standout) sends the record into it's nearly all-instrumental back half, with the trifecta of "Slow Swords", "Weird Era" and "Moon Witch Cartridge" all incorporating new and interesting ideas into the established Deerhunter formula, thankfully without drawing attention to themselves. It's a hypnotic introduction to the 11 minute closer "Calvary Scars II/Aux Out", which takes the whispered lyrics of it's parent track and applies it to a cathedral sized epic, while surprisingly managing to distance itself from it's compact counterpoint, which was already one of Microcastle's most heartrending moments.
After finally hearing this bonus disc - which now stands as the only time I've ever consciously purchased a record twice - it would be impossible to separate Weird Era Cont. from Microcastle. These songs are so obviously cut from the same cloth, with themes overlapping and buoying Microcastle's already established context. There isn't a throwaway track between the two discs, and I can honestly see Weird Era Cont. getting more spins than even Microcastle has, which is easily the record I've listened to most this year. If they hadn't already proved it with their constantly updated blog, Deerhunter are among the most gracious of independent bands. If nothing else, Weird Era Cont. reaffirms this fact, establishing them as probably the most rewarding of modern rock groups.
Highlights: "Backspace Century", "Operation", "Vox Humana", "Focus Group"