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The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2019

All Issues
JUNE 2019 Issue

A Soundtrack for the Age of Immanence

Configuração do Lamento, the 2016 debut from instrumental band Deafkids, is an incendiary meld of punk, ambient metal, progressive sonics, and adrenalized percussion. The group crafts compelling tracks that highlight varying aspects of their multifaceted sound. The album opens with “Veia Aberta,” featuring a jackhammer rhythm and choppy guitar riff reminiscent of Bleach-era Nirvana, segueing into a drone punctuated by grunts and groans filtered through a multitude of effects. “Veia Aberta” pivots into “Entranhas,” an interweaving of conventional rock drums and exotic percussion (some listeners will immediately think of Sepultura; Deafkids’ eclectic contexts and gestalts, however, make comparisons to their Brazilian peers superficial at best; i.e., they’re both from Brazil and employ so-called indigenous sounds). “Lâmina Cortante” fuses the sonic, vocal, and percussive elements of the first two tracks, rendering an apocalyptic amalgam of harrowing rhythms, accents, and textures, and navigating the intersections of progressive metal, death metal, drone, and world music.

Similarly, towards the end of the album, the band offers “Pés Atados,” a hellish jumble of rhythms, guitar riffs, and distorted tones, including what may be a sampled gust of wind treated with distortion and overdrive, and transformed into the sonic equivalent of a sand-and-grit filled cyclone. The piece veers into “Mordaça”—perhaps someone drumming on copper pots and pans, notes run through a pitch shifter, the entire mix sounding as if it were recorded underground, conjuring associations to the universal abyss: Hades, Tartarus, etc.

The synthesis occurs with the closing track, “Distopia Permanente,” reiterations of atmospheric and rhythmic elements introduced on earlier tracks conflagrating into the album’s most sonically experimental and texturally confrontive segments. The piece does indeed invoke the dystopia of, among other benchmarks, Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis; Orwell’s 1984 (novel and film); and the subtly nightmarish The Unit, written by Ninni Holmqvist and published in 2006. In this way, “Distopia Permanente” aesthetically coheres the approaches of “Pés Atados,” and “Mordaça,” integrating the album as a whole.

The latest project by Deafkids, Metaprogramação, is a lengthier undertaking than Configuração do Lamento, allowing the band to forge more elaborate and potentially complex tracks, though these opportunities often result in counter-aesthetic repetitions. The album opens with “Vox Dei,” liturgical voices mutated into a sinister and invocatory group-howl, a well-trodden inversion of the Christian signature. Ambient elements are drawn from refreshingly unlikely templates such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Joy Division (for example, the post-punk atmospherics of “Atrocity Exhibition,” the opening track on Closer) in addition to dins and clamors that occur as distinctly punkish or metallic. “Alucinações de Comando” is a mix of inventive drumming, distorted accents, and a forlorn voice pleading from the aural simulacrum of Dante’s Inferno: a sonic portrait of Judas in the afterworld. “Mente Bicameral,” with its heavy and well-produced guitar parts, reminded me of Rage Against the Machine. The track features voices that alternate between belching sounds and creepily indecipherable incantations. “Templo do Caos” features staccato voices wafting across a relatively buoyant terrain brimming with various percussive tones. “Raíz Negativa (Não-Vontade)” features crunchy riffs slicing through waves of vomitous voices, most of which could’ve been sampled from The Exorcist, the piece vacillating between swirling spaciousness and mechanistic cacophony. The album ends with “Espirais da Loucura II” and “A Experiência Holotrópica,” a return to the inverted liturgy of the album’s opening, cursed souls babbling from the bottom of a roiling pit, a crushing guitar part wending its way through the track as drums and percussion sustain a metronomic tempo.

I can’t help but wonder, as predictable as the consideration is, if Deafkids would benefit from occasional use of conventional song structures and vocal parts, especially on a longer and more demanding album such as Metaprogramação, which, despite riveting sonics and a resourceful hybridization of elements drawn from myriad genres, intermittently failed to hold my interest. Listening to the album numerous times, I consistently found my attention waning, which underscores that even a swath of bedlam can become innocuous if normalized. The issue is a relative dearth of melody: hooks, if one can discuss this project in such terms, are almost exclusively ambient and/or rhythmic. There’s a noticeable absence of melodic development, instrumentally or, of course, vocally. Then again, this may stand as the experiential analog to Deafkids’s vision of a programmatic world, a trance-y purgatory in which the mind is alternately lulled and pummeled into disembodied automatism. That said, I can’t imagine a musician deeming it a success when a listener zones out, missing two, three, four minutes of what he’s presumably committed to hearing.

Taken as a diptych, Configuração do Lamento and Metaprogramação showcase a talented band navigating musicality, programming, and manipulation of effects with adroitness, a sound that occurs as modish, innovative, and bewitching—until it doesn’t. But a listener’s drift may point to the fickleness of the contemporary mind as much as problems related to the artists’ creative process, much of our lives spent in a pseudo-dream, MIA, a fog of collective ADHD (the catalytic observation, I’d suggest, behind Dark City, The Matrix, Mr. Robot, etc.). Occasionally we’re graced by a stirring or epiphany, frequently in response to a birth, a sublime natural scene, or falling in love: we wake, engage, free from the program or, more aptly, mindful of and curious about it, repeating this habitual pattern of presence and departure until the particular egoic consciousness fades (death), subsumed by the more-encompassing reality: The Meta-Program (capital T, capital M, capital P). In closing, if transcendence was the obsession of the romantics and reconfiguration the modus operandum of the modernists, immanence is the preoccupation of the 21st century; pantheism as the omnipresence and inescapability of code: nothing beyond the program. In this way, Deafkids eschew the dualities of metal, sonically addressing the digitalization of consciousness itself.


John Amen

John Amen is the author of five collections of poetry, including Illusion of an Overwhelm, a finalist for the 2018 Brockman-Campbell Award. He founded and edits Pedestal Magazine.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2019

All Issues