- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Trouble in Dreams


Dan Bejar probably is known best to American music audiences as a contributor to the New Pornographers, the Canadian supergroup fronted by Carl Newman and alt-country chanteuse Neko Case. Mr. Bejar accompanied the New Pornographers on the group’s most recent U.S. tour, which included a stop at the 9:30 Club.

As a performer, he has an enigmatic — some might say reluctant — stage presence. At the 9:30 gig, Mr. Bejar had to be coaxed onstage to perform. He appeared indifferent to the adoring crowd, singing perfunctorily while clutching a bottle of beer like a security blanket.

He has a more commanding presence as the leader of the band Destroyer. Since its founding in the mid-1990s, he has stocked the band with a rotating lineup of musicians. Yet the group has always been a showcase for Mr. Bejar’s adenoidal singing and his lyrical style, which marries detailed narrative and lunatic allegory to a highly idiosyncratic and meandering prosody.

He has the curious and endearing habit of singing in sudden exclamations, like a character in musical theater announcing his intentions.

The current incarnation of Destroyer features Nicolas Bragg on guitar, Ted Bois on keyboards, Tim Loewen on bass and New Pornographers drummer Fisher Rose. Rather than recalling the 2006 Destroyer album “Destroyer’s Rubies,” the songs on “Trouble in Dreams” are of a piece with Mr. Bejar’s compositions from “Challengers,” the most recent New Pornographers album.

The soaring chorus on the New Pornos number “The Spirit of Giving” finds its echo on “Trouble in Dreams” on the track “Introducing Angels.” The ethereal, acoustic New Pornos track “Entering White Cecilia” has a mate in Destroyer’s “Libby’s First Sunrise.”

There is a pleasing richness to the songs on “Trouble in Dreams.” The vocal line on the Dylanesque fantasia “Blue Flower/Blue Flame” is trailed by an arpeggiated guitar fill and a soaring Mellotron passage.

“The State” begins with an aggressive drum-and-guitar attack, and the arresting lyric, “Oh, The State cut off my arms and The State tore my eyes with her nails.” The six-minute track “My Favorite Year” opens with a haze of brooding psychedelic distortion, resolving into a voice- and drums-driven screed before veering again into a mess of guitar noise. “Leopard of Honor” beautifully melds shimmering organ sounds with a gently strummed acoustic guitar and bluesy electric guitar fills.

Whereas the sprawling orchestrations on Mr. Bejar’s earlier albums have an experimental feel, the songs on “Trouble in Dreams” feel more studied and polished. That’s not to say there’s no edginess here.

Mr. Bejar’s voice — the nasal timbre, the sudden tonal shifts — lends a kind of elegant anxiety to all the songs. Yet “Trouble in Dreams” feels like the work of an artist who is just beginning to grow comfortable with his own style.

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