Dan Deacon: Time Trial
Dan Deacon’s film score work bears almost no discernible connection to his studio albums, and there’s an obvious reason for that. On director Theo Anthony’s 2017 documentary Rat Film , Deacon took the underlying theme of the narrative—how Baltimore’s complicated racial history finds a cruel metaphor in the management of the city’s rat population—and folded it almost literally into the music, using theremins “played” by rats to generate a workable database of sonic information. With Time Trial, he draws similar inspiration from the subject matter: the painful final year of professional cyclist David Millar’s career. (A four-time stage winner of the Tour de France, Millar endured a two-year doping ban from the sport in 2004, eventually retiring after a tumultuous 2014 season.) There’s a distinctive sense of open roadway and relentless, rotating movement on a piece like “The Peloton,” while “The Breakaway” perfectly captures all the calculation and tension that goes into a rider’s decision to “make a move” and attempt to leave the field behind. Relying on synthesizers and deft signal-processing to communicate sweeping moods of confusion (“The Melee”), dread (“Worse Times”) and contemplative solitude (“David’s Lament”), Deacon succeeds in creating an electronic score that feels remarkably sympathetic to Millar’s plight. It’s a study in expressing human fragility and fallibility with machines, like the best of Brian Eno’s ambient works.