Essential New Music: Deerhoof’s “Mountain Moves”

Deerhoof’s methodology from the start could best be described as a rotating collective of weirdos attempting to understand, absorb and translate each other’s eccentricities in a wildly diverse whole. On last year’s The Magic, vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Greg Saunier approached accessibility, albeit in their own hallucinogenically skewed terms, spurred by a cattle call for original songs for HBO’s Vinyl and the band’s ruminations on childhood musical infatuations.

Almost exactly a year later, Deerhoof returns with Mountain Moves, the perfectly fractured follow-up, inspired by the current political/social maelstrom and a rare decision to welcome outside collaborators into its erratically tangential creative process. The 12 new originals and three idiosyncratic covers (including artful reimaginings of Bob Marley’s “Small Axe” and the Staple Singers’ “Freedom Highway”) represent the broadest, strangest and coolest sonic canvas that Deerhoof has ever framed.

“I Will Spite Survive” serves as the standard bearer for Mountain Moves, with a thumping beat, anthemic guitars, Cars-like keyboards, vocal assistance from Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and the proper dash of Deerhoof’s patented off-kilter spice. “Begin Countdown” sounds like contemporary pop as conducted and arranged by Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You” blends avant-disco fever dreams and a fist-pumping rap from Awkwafina with insistent indie-rock guitar, and “Come Down Here And Say That” offers Matsuzaki and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier cooing over a Modest Mouse-meets-Danger Mouse soundtrack.

Like the Flaming Lips and Guided By Voices, Deerhoof spent its early existence fashioning its unique niche and now enjoys the luxury of being able to bend its environment to fit its current mood and vision.

Brian Baker