First, a brief history for those out of the loop: Deastro (pronounced DES-tro) is the cheerful, new-wave-2.0 project of young Randy Chabot, one of Detroit's most prolific recording artists. Releasing music (usually gratis) at a staggering rate, and under a handful of monikers, Chabot's synth-and-sample live performances have become a sensation around here in the last few years, leading to a deal with Ghostly International, an Ann Arbor label known for its top-tier electronic talent. Deastro, who now plays with a (tight) live band, headed into the studio and came out with a kinetic, imaginative collection of songs that play something like Joy Division on antidepressants (the song "Vermillion Plaza" wears its Joy Division colors well).
The album opens big with "Biophelia," a song jump-started by a syncopated arpeggio of chime-y blips that soon introduces the new sound of the live band. It's everything old and new about Deastro's music, which novice listeners will learn is quite distinctive. Gems are scattered throughout the 13 songs, including "Parallelogram," a fantastical, propelling electro-pop hit and "Toxic Crusaders" is full of plaintive melody, funky guitar licks and heart while the unwieldy-titled "Daniel Johnston was Stabbed in the Heart with the Moondagger by the King of Darkness and his Ghost is Writing this Song as a Warning to All of Us" is full of hope and promise for Detroit, a city Chabot adores. The album concludes — if you buy the CD and thus the bonus tracks — on a revamped version of "The Shaded Forests," which is perhaps still Deastro's best song.
In fact, if there's one complaint about Moondagger, it's that Chabot's vocals and lyrics continually get buried in his wondrous instrumental layers — as superb as this release is, it could've been even better with clearer words. Nevertheless, this is a professional production, which Deastro needed, and the arrangements are more careful and clever than ever before.
Deastro returns for a show on Tuesday, June 30, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7665. With Black Moth Super Rainbow.
Travis R. Wright is the arts and culture editor for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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