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Building to Moments: Decker, April 20 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 16:00

Brandon Decker. Photo courtesy Ashley Wintermute.

The band Decker calls its sound “psychedelic desert folk,” and each of those words carries roughly equal weight.

The folk influence is a carry-over from earlier incarnations of the band. Before its fourth album – last year’s Slider – leader Brandon Decker wrote the songs and brought people in to round them out. “I didn’t feel they were really musical,” he said in a phone interview last week. Rather, they were vehicles to say something.

But when the band performs at Rozz-Tox on April 20, Decker will be emphasizing the other two words. In its current form as a four-piece, the folk leanings are somewhat obscured by the wide-open space reflecting its home base of Sedona, Arizona, and the spaciness of psychedelic rock. (The band stylizes its name as “decker.”, but for readability I’m ignoring that.)

On Slider and the epic “Cellars” (from the upcoming Patsy EP), there’s a comfortable balance between direct simplicity and airy, patient exploration. Instead of being dense in any given moment, the songs wander purposefully, collecting detail to achieve their fullness.

Undoubtedly, Decker the songwriter hasn’t abandoned folk content. He said the songs on Slider concern “my failings as a man and the unraveling of pertinent relationships. Patsy’s more of a less-personal set of songs. Kind of more about, in a non-Marxist way, the plight of the proletariat and how it affects us all to be scrounging around in life trying to find our morsels of sustenance.”

But with a strong group of collaborators, Decker said, the band with Slider began to write the music as an ensemble, resulting in a more expansive style. “We just decided to let the songs pan out how they did,” he said. “And what that ended up being was I think a lot more musical and melodic than anything that I’d ever experienced. But I think also we didn’t try to stop anything at any song length.”

The two-part “Weight in Gold” actually feels like a three-part suite, with “Part 1” bifurcated. The first half is straightforward, lovely, and driving acoustic-guitar-based pop, and after a pause it begins to cast a downbeat, dreamy spell. “Part 2” builds, releases, and re-builds, and combined they craft an emotional arc.

The nine-minute “Cellars” is similarly a musical triptych – and it effectively summarizes the psychedelic-desert-folk aesthetic. The first section is a spare showcase for the vocal interplay of Decker and drummer/singer/guitarist Kelly Cole; the androgynous, artful switching of the lead singing and coming together of the voices create a subtle but startling nebulousness that carries through the rest of the song. The concise second section gallops and stomps before the space rock explodes, with an elegant lead guitar contrasted with distortion and feedback and thick bass – marching toward entropic noise.

Decker said that while these tracks demand a certain amount of patience and attention from listeners, they also required the room to reach their destinations. “I love the moments that they build to,” he said. “They need that time to get there.”

The band itself nearly didn’t get to this point. Its van blew a tire and rolled over in August 2012, seriously injuring Cole and making Decker wonder whether he should continue.

Cole was in intensive care, and several members of the band left shortly after the accident.“I had a real hard time,” Decker said.

Because it’s based in a place that is by no means a musical hotbed, Decker needs to tour – an unattractive prospect after such a serious accident. (Living in Sedona challenges the band, its leader said: “It caused me to kind of work harder and push it to the road rather than ascend some music scene.”)

But “it was Kelly’s visioning that kind of inspired me,” he said. “Within days [of the accident], she decided she was going to quit working on her master’s and teaching and wanted to fully devote to Decker.”

He added that, with Slider nearly finished at that point, he had another incentive: “Music is always kind of booked up three or four months in advance. So you would really have to be committed to stopping.”

Decker will perform on Sunday, April 20, at Rozz-Tox (2108 Third Avenue, Rock Island; RozzTox.com). The $5 all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. and also features Speaking of Secrets and Loren.

For more information on Decker, visit DeckerMusic.org.

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