Published Oct 10, 2017Maybe you aren't familiar with the rat situation in Dan Deacon's native Baltimore, or with any sort of practical matter involving the rattus genus (looking at you, Alberta), but his instrumental Rat Film soundtrack offers at least an aural sense of the skittering way in which they inhabit the world.
The Baltimore-based hyper-pop operator's created an original score for a documentary that uses the much-maligned scurriers as a way of talking about broader social complexities within the city. To do so, he's scaled back his usual hyper-kinetic pop approach: Using a blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation, Deacon employs simplicity, space and silence to carve into newly focused sonic territory.
(Deacon lets the titular animals score a co-write, too, setting up Theremins around a rat enclosure, letting their movement affect pitch and volume, then incorporating those sounds into his compositions.)
As an instrumental score, it feels potent, affecting and well-suited to the complexities of a multi-faceted doc. As a standalone release, devoid of the visual context it's designed to pair with, Rat Film doesn't always find lasting purchase, but it does in parts. The soundtrack's shorter works seem stronger as audio-only, partly because the ideas seem more distinct: the beachy vibes of "Pelican" find lazy, lovely circles to follow, while the low-end blips of "Videogame" offer a more familiar, Deacon-y sheen as it builds. Others, like the five-minute "Horn Phase" — a scampering run of digital waves that encircles itself — feel like the prog intros to songs that never quite arrive.
Still, Rat Film shows off increasing nuance and range in Deacon's abilities as a composer. As a measure of its creator's compositional ability, it's a skilful experiment in reaching beyond his comfort zone. (Domino)