Live review from Electro ROCKS!
1. How I Feel
2. There’s No Future
4. I Want It All
6. Flowers (Cover)
Masks: whether you think they’re alluring or gimmicky, there’s no question that Deer was the most visually-arresting band of the night at Electro Rocks thanks to an origami Deer head worn by synths-n-beats master Miguel Bastida. He may have been the man in the mask, but it was Adriana Martinez who held the crowd’s attention with her powerful voice, which recalled Nancy Sinatra and Shirley Bassey.
The atmospheric set opened with How I Feel, a sultry, tethered trudge of Groove Armada trip-hop beats and soulful vocals. “We’re trying something new here,” said Martinez as There’s No Future broke through the soporific haze. Sinister iamamiwhoami synths looped amid crunching Massive Attack beats. The noise suddenly dulled to throbbing, Robyn-esque bass, before the beat built back up to heavy tom hits, arpeggiated melodies and fuzzy guitar noise.
Then, it was mask-off and glasses-on for Bastida as he conjured Voices. Opening to babbled speech, the song was almost witch house in its ominous undertones and metallic trap ticking. Thanks to Martinez’s retro vocals, the song developed a similar electro-meets-vintage quality as I Monster’s Daydream in Blue.
I Want It All took on a more dubstep feel, with techno percussion and squidgy bass. Above this driving, down-tempo electronica, Martinez’s Bond-theme vocals sounded unsettling and occasionally out of place. Lost in a melee of noise, the singer’s voice was barely audible at times – and it wasn’t clear whether this was a stylistic decision or a case of bad levels.
Instead of Scandi-electro crispness, Deer were more alternative-influenced, blending elements of ’90s rock music and guitar distortion with traditional DJ techniques. With its dissonant string sounds, wooden percussion, glitch effects and off-kilter beat, Peter evoked Thom Yorke’s solo work, but it sounded out of sync with Martinez’s soft wails.
Taking a different approach, Flowers began with gently-picked guitar chords and strong vocals. A punter wearing the deer mask began dancing drunkenly, and it looked like the show was over. Not quite! The intensity picked up again as trance-y Hana synths started pumping to the sound of excited cheers. When the guitar finally broke through, it created a euphoric finale.
With such a strong look and knack for atmospheric tunes, Deer has clearly put a lot of thought into the project. However, the music occasionally hinted at something darker, more ambitious, more ground-breaking, which made it hard to shake the feeling that the pair hadn’t reached their full potential. Until then, their journey will be a fascinating one to follow.
– El Jay