Bradford Cox has long deployed a high synth wash, both in his solo project Atlas Sound and in his original band, Deerhunter, but 2013’s Monomania (QRO review) saw the group go for the garage-distort, a distinctly lower-fi sound. Fading Frontier could have just been a continuation of that, or a return to the past, but instead draws it all in and more for a more diverse Deerhunter.
For a record written after Cox suffered terrible injuries in a car accident, Fading Frontier has a decidedly brighter feel to it, starting with the sunnier procession opener “All the Same”. The psych is sweet on the following “Living My Life”, and there’s even tropicalia in the subsequent “Breaker”. Yes, there is some of the Deerhunter wash of old (“Take Care”, “Ad Astra”), but it’s actually the least interesting side of the record – better is the upbeat blues-garage sly of “Snakeskin”. And anyone who saw the Atlas Sound show on February 24th, 2008 (QRO review) will have a soft spot for whenever Cox mentions “Leather and Wood”.
Deerhunter could have gone further into synth esotery, but instead turned the other direction with lo-fi on Monomania. They could have gone further in that direction, or just reclaimed the wash, yet have rather managed to craft something new.