Whimsy is rarely taken seriously in music. Playfulness and humor tend to be shunted out of the conversation when one is discussing music. The academic and avant garde err toward structure and craft to measure the quality and worth of any endeavor. So what happens when an air of whimsy is introduced into serious music? Dan Deacon happens.
Birthed from the polemic parents who were the DIY denizens of the Baltimore collective Wham City and the pedigreed prestige of SUNY Conservatory of Music, Dan Deacon brings a lightness to experimental electronic music that disarms the normal obstacles for casual listeners of contemporary digital composition.
Much like a hoarder in his layering of sounds, samples and vocal manipulations, Deacon throws nothing away, using every scrap of musical detritus he can muster. A bit of John Cage, a dash of Spike Jones, a smidge of Giorgio Moroder and a sprinkle of Lee Perry, all curated in a manic blend of Dr. Demento's giddiness and Wolfman Jack's cool.
When posed the question of how he balances the anarchic atmosphere of DIY and the more studied aspects of academia, Deacon replies, "For me, having a foot in each of those worlds enters into most choices I make on any project. I feel really lucky to have spent so much time in various aspects of the music scene and to explore ideas in many different contexts."
Behind his impish smirk dwells a very serious mind. When asked how he thinks rapid advancements in technology have impacted the DIY experimental world, Deacon says, "Throughout all of time, art has shifted by changes in technology and the people fascinated by those changes. ... Once computers entered homes, computer musicians were created. There has been, and I believe always will be, a group of artists that yearn for what is new and to take that and find applications beyond the original origin."
Spending most of the last decade working on compositions for film while also releasing multiple albums, Deacon has obviously stayed busy in his search for the new. He just announced the January 2020 release of his latest album, Mystic Familiar, by premiering new track "Sat by a Tree" and an accompanying music video on Oct. 29. Also in October, Deacon finally returned to touring, and Orlando fans will no doubt fondly remember a past show where Deacon led a raucous conga line out of the Social and into the streets of downtown Orlando.
When asked what attendees at this week's show can expect, Deacon answered playfully: "I think it's always best to not have expectations. Expectations are a hindrance to being in the present. My hint would be to forget this hint." Expect the unexpected from Dan Deacon's carefully orchestrated whimsy at Will's Pub.
– This story appears in the Nov. 6, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.