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Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity / Progressive Rock Update With Brad Houser

Meet Brad Houser –

Hello Bass People…

First, a disclaimer… There is no “bad-ass” bass playing on this CD; CD by whom? Deerhoof. ‘Friend Opportunity’. “Deer-What?” to explain………..

Deerhoof is a San Francisco based musical group that defies all categorization (and then some…). A little dedicated listening (or, casual, non-dedicated) will bear this out. Admittedly, I didn’t even like this music very much when first exposed to it by some colleagues of mine; I have since learned to love it.

On ‘Friend Opportunity’ Deerhoof consists of Satomi Matsuzaki (vox, bass), Greg Saunier (drums), and John Dieterich (guitar), although there was reputedly a lot of instrument switching during the recording process. The bass is nearly invisible on this recording. Invisible, not so much sonically, but as in thoroughly woven into the music.

Some YouTube viewing reveals Ms. Matsuzaki to be a fantastic bassist, playing kindergarten-simple lines with machine precision, usually on a Hofner Beatle Bass. Her True Skill is revealed in her vocal lines, which effortlessly track and complement the stupendous harmonic angularity of John Dieterich’s guitar.

Dieterich, on this CD, reveals himself to be a first-rate guitar virtuoso. Think Bill Frisell-Kurt Cobain-ZootHorn Rollo-Jonny Greenwood-Mark Ribot virtuosity as opposed to Vai-Satriani-Segovia. Dieterich shines particularly bright in this fashion on the last track, “Look Away”. At 11:46 in length, this track is a virtual post-modern guitar school. Brilliant… Genius… Shining… Eternal. And, for a little punk-rock virtuosity, witness “The Perfect Me” both on the CD and on YouTube…

The main riff is an angular power chord tour-de -force, which would ordinarily sound very masculine, until Satomi’s “Minnie Mouse-on-helium” vocals enter the fray. Witness the power of Saunier’s drum track. What an excellent piece of music, in pop song format. This song stands out, also, because it has a strong V chord emphasis in the chorus, one of the few times this group even begins to approach conventionality. Many of Deerhoof’s songs do not adhere at all to the whole I-IV-V verse/chorus thing, opting instead for something much more rooted in post-Stravinsky modernism. Deerhoof notably does not at all reference classic rock, quite a breath of fresh musical air in this current era of endless recycling.

Another dose of newness comes with track 6, “Whither The Invisible Birds”. Two minutes eleven seconds of futuristic orchestral bliss, with Satomi’s voice floating serenely overhead. This track reminds me a little of some of Bjork’s work. As in “Innocent girl voice floats over galactic orchestra”. The entirety of all music and of all humanity is made more beautiful from the contributions of artists such as these.

“Friend Opportunity” was allegedly recorded in guitarist Dieterich’s apartment between two segments of a stint opening for Radiohead. Sonically, this recording is superbly produced; Quite lush and “expensive” sounding. Apparently it was mixed on computer, mostly while on tour. Once again, out the window goes the notion that one needs a lot of loot and fancy gear in order to make a great recording.

It would be a crime not to give an extra mention of drummer Greg Saunier’s punk rock virtuosity. Or, just plain Virtuosity. Slamming.

The band’s homemade video for “The Perfect Me” on YouTube is low-tech creativity at its finest. I just now noticed the typewriter (really) percussion track in the outro.

For some ulta-quirky pop ditty action… Dig Satomi on that Hofner, baby.

There is a goodly amount of these wonderful folks on YouTube. Peruse and enjoy the the thrashy brilliance of……………Deerhoof.

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