Dan Deacon Mystic Familiar
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Dan Deacon Mystic Familiar Domino

Just shy of five years since Dan Deacon released his last full-length solo record, the Baltimore-based electronic composer returns with an ambitious concept-led album, Mystic Familiar. Whether or not you buy into the language of Deacon’s world-building (he describes a ‘mystic familiar’ as our inner subconscious, “an entity that communicates magically with another person”), or his twee, enthusiastic grappling with wonder, it’s clear that the themes he explores on the record have been deeply considered in his absence.

Meditation runs as a thread throughout, with Deacon’s lyrics at times commanding the listener to follow him under. “Close your eyes, float away, feel so fine,” he repeats as a mantra throughout the tightly choreographed four-part Arp sequence that forms the album’s core. But despite Deacon’s insistence on seeking freedom and transcendence, it seems he’s never truly able to achieve it himself, bound instead by the precise arrangements of his songwriting.

There’s a veneer of disorder, but the music never truly loses itself. It’s not until halfway through the closer, Bumble Bee Crown King, that the squall of synths breaks out and, for a short moment, is allowed to caterwaul into the ether.

In spite of bright spots – such as the euphoric jostling on death, decay and rebirth of Sat By a Tree, or the warmth in the call-and-response chorus of Fell Into the Ocean – this inability to relinquish control and lean into a disconnected state yields frustrating results.