Deerhoof – “This Magnificent Bird Will Rise”
appears on Reveille
This one is pretty much all thanks to Greg Saunier. Not to sell Deerhoof’s other members short – Satomi Matsuzaki’s sugary delivery is a treat as always and the off-kilter guitar work of John Dieterich gives the song a lot of its personality, but this is the song where Saunier shows why he’s my favourite drummer making music today. I think seeing him live helped to cement that feeling, as seeing first-hand how he manages to wrangle so much energy and versatility out of such a limited kit – one kick, one snare, one crash – left a lasting impression on me. “Magnificent Bird”, an early explosion on the group’s 2002 album Reveille, begins with Matsuzaki’s deadpan intonation “The trumpet scatters its awful sound over the graves of all lands, summoning all before the throne. Death and mankind shall be stunned when nature arises to give account before the judge”. The unnerving declaration is delivered with a blank stare, about as sinister as a band like Deerhoof could ever hope to sound, and it creates a perfect stillness for Saunier’s crash landing drum intro to drop in and tear the place apart. His technique is quite remarkable – an outpouring of loose, free-flowing energy and the kind of abstract creativity rarely seen in pop/rock percussionists. I like to imagine that he establishes a rigid, traditional beat in his mind, then chooses to drum “around” that beat in a complementary manner, to create something chaotic and skittish but undeniably consistent. Barring it’s spoken-word intro, the song is ostensibly an instrumental (Matsuzaki’s only vocals being a wordless “do do do dooo”), which draws the focus moreso to the percussion, making it not only a band highlight but also a kind of personal spotlight moment for Saunier himself. An honourable mention goes to “Siriustar”, which sees the band tackling blues-funk via some limber basslines, squiggly lead guitar and one of Matsuzaki’s best vocal turns.