Posts Tagged ‘Kaputt’

With Kaputt, which came out 10 years ago this week, Dan Bejar demolished preconceived notions of what his band Destroyer sounded like a little more than a minute into Kaputt, the first saxophone appears. It’s just a little ascending sax run leading into the second verse of “Chinatown” nothing extravagant — but then it’s back, riffing and grooving with increasing fervour, as the song approaches its gentle jazz-pop climax. There’s more sax on “Blue Eyes,” colouring in the margins around Dan Bejar’s bemused references to Beatles songs and long-dead outlaws, before his band goes full lounge-pop during the luxuriating outro of “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker”: saxophones, trumpets, and flutes twirling around each other like faded dispatches from a past era.

That inaugural saxophone, performed by Canadian musician Joseph Shabason, feels like the moment where everything changed for Destroyer. Certainly, it’s the moment where Kaputt lets you know it’s anything but just another Destroyer album.

“Kaputt” released 10 years ago today. The production details are radiant. Glistening synths flicker like strobe lights throughout the title track’s soft-disco pomp. On “Downtown” and “Song For America,” jazzy backing vocalists underline Bejar’s vocals as though they were given the night off from a Steely Dan tour. Fretless bass licks slither underneath it all with the slightest hint of reverb.

Quiet storm, sophisti-pop, smooth jazz — whatever you want to call this stuff, it wasn’t what anyone expected a big-ticket indie album to sound like in 2011. What makes it work, aside from the band’s fluid virtuosity, is that Bejar wholly commits to the bit. Nothing on Kaputt is half-assed, no part executed with a wink or a smirk. The drum sound in “Savage Night At The Opera” has just the right dainty light touch. When “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker” a sprawling meditation on race written with the visual artist Kara Walker.

Plenty of great albums locate profundity within schmaltz, but few of them are as good as Kaputt.

The songwriting on Kaputt is more rich with imagery than discernible meaning. In press materials, Bejar cited “the hopelessness of the future of music” and “the pointlessness of writing songs for today” he said he’d largely lost interest in indie-rock as a serious vehicle for lyric-writing — “I just started blurting things out in a really condensed period of time,” he said of Kaputt‘s process — and yet the album contains some of his greatest, least-fretted-over lines to date.

At the time, the album’s formless writing and sonic textures seemed like a vast departure from Destroyer’s previous LPs. In retrospect, Kaputt has its roots in two Destroyer EPs released in 2009 and 2010, respectively: Bay Of Pigs, which featured a slightly extended version of Kaputt‘s majestic closing track of the same name.

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When I made Kaputt people who had one foot in ambient music and one foot in pop music and one foot in jazz and one foot in world music.”

Steely Dan’s pair of late ’70s-early ’80s classics, Aja and Gaucho, both come to mind as well, particularly for their juxtaposition of slick grooves and cynical, debauched lyrics with ample references to recreational drug consumption.

Ten years later, Kaputt isn’t just the consensus pick for Destroyer’s best album (though I might still go to bat for Rubies depending on the day). In retrospect, it’s the pivot point of the group’s entire career — the sax-soaked fulcrum that divides Destroyer’s catalogue into two distinct eras: Before Kaputt  and After Kaputt  generally had some idea of what a new Destroyer album would sound like before it arrived.

THE KAPUTT PLAYERS:
Daniel Bejar,
Pete Bourne.
Nicolas Bragg,
David Carswell,
J.P. Carter,
John Collins,
Joseph Shabason,
Sibel Thrasher,

Released January 25th, 2011

 

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Destroyer’s 2011 album Kaputt is one of my favorites of the decade (it was 2011’s best), though I certainly wouldn’t anticipate a songwriter like Dan Bejar – always of a creatively capricious nature – to attempt to replicate that sound again. Still, I was pleased to see some of Kaputt’s elements carry over into Poison Season, which paints a similar sorta nighttime melancholy in instrumental choices (especially with the entries of orchestra and brass) and homage-laden philosophy, even if the overall experience is less cohesive than the masterful Kaputt. Still, 

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Poison Season is a solid album from a songwriter always worth checking out. Several tracks provide an eclectic glimpse; Springsteen-esque rocker “Dream Lover” is fun even if it lacks the depth Bejar listeners are familiar with, but there’s plenty of depth elsewhere – from masterful orchestral builder “Forces From Above”, which hearkens to Kaputt influence Bryan Ferry in the string-laden nonchalance, to the sweeping cinematic lushness of “Bangkok”. There’s always at least one of atmospheric beauty or rampant infectious hooks in a Dan Bejar track, often both, and the efforts here are no exception.

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