Every couple of albums, Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar transforms his sound completely, and ken is his latest about-face. After the sprawling, ornate full-band arrangements of Kaputt (2011) and Poison Season (2015), this comparatively humble LP was recorded in Bejar's East Vancouver practice space with drummer Joshua Wells (also of Black Mountain and Lightning Dust). It's the first time in 20 years that Destroyer has made an album without producers JC/DC, and the result is a far more intimate and insular-sounding record than we're used to from the ever-theatrical Bejar.
Sonically, ken touches on a few familiar reference points: the soft-focus horns and new wave shimmy of "Tinseltown Swimming in Blood" recall Kaputt, while the distorted crunch of "Stay Lost" bears traces of 2001's Streethawk: A Seduction; the homemade programming of 2004's MIDI opus Your Blues emerges on several cuts, too.
But there are some new sounds too: opener "Sky's Grey" juxtaposes dramatic piano chords with a skittering IDM beat, and the echoing synth pulse of bilingual closer "La Regle du Jeu" borrows from Euro-dance.
That's a lot of different stylistic inspirations for an 11-song, 40-minute album, but it's all held together by Bejar's unmistakable vocal delivery and cryptic poetry. As much as Destroyer's instrumental palette has changed over the years, Bejar's lyrical and melodic sensibilities have remained consistent, meaning that he's able to dabble in new genres without losing his unique sparkle. With ken, he has once again delivered an excellent record that offers both sonic surprises and familiar idiosyncrasies. (Merge)