Willie Burns' side-project delivers another batch of intriguingly oddball techno.
Black Deer skips across the weirdo techno landscape populated by labels like L.I.E.S., No 'Label' and Emotional Response, where the noir-ish synths hold as much sway as the Detroit techno blueprint. The project's fifth album feels like a statement piece on the nature of Black Deer after the mixture of shorter releases and cassettes. It's also the second time Burns has released a self-titled Black Deer record, as if to suggest there's no overarching theme to be considered beyond the project and its sounds.
This is a maximal record packed full of gluttonous synths. There's barely any room to breathe in the mix, and for the most part the approach works just fine. "Water Glider" takes on a soaring quality as upwards of four synths vie for attention around the simple thrust of a lone kick drum. For such full-fat sounds, they're well placed—you can clearly hear contrasting arpeggios cascading around each other amid a wave of pad washes. The result is euphoric and unrelenting. The opening track, "Who's Birthday Is It Now?," is a strong draw, with its taut string stabs and booming drums.
There are times, though, when it feels like Burns has overcooked his ingredients. "Tauntalising" revolves around a garish brass lead that parps out in a jerky formation for seven minutes with only a quiet piano tinkle for company. It's hard to see what the desired effect was here, not least compared to the richly developed tracks sculpted elsewhere on the record. From an experimental perspective, Burns fares better when he fires up a chilly slice of minimal wave on "She Doesn't Want To Marry." Its influences are clear, but Burns' off-centre personality carries the track.
Black Deer sounds strongest when reaching for the stars, conducting an orchestra of synths locked in harmonious unison and clamouring for ecstatic release. "Olé" nails the approach the most effectively, as his ensemble pings and twinkles with pie-eyed delight in a busy but beautiful flow. The impression is of a jam session captured in full flight. Burns has flung a lot against the wall on this record, and the stickiest tracks have held fast. We can excuse a few sliding to the floor.