Moving through clouds

Deja Blue's experimental dance drifts through narcotic sludge

By Rev. Adam McKinney on October 14, 2016

One of my favorite songs by Ween is a shady little ditty called "Zoloft." Coming from a band that once claimed to have recorded an album under the influence of huffed Scotchgard - though they later fessed up to this being a lie, just the "most slime-bag thing" they could think of - the soporiferous daze of "Zoloft" isn't surprising. The loungey ode to recreationally sucking down anti-anxiety pills is flush with a serotonin-oozing smirk, painting a perfect picture of frontman Gene Ween melting into a couch, only disturbed by the occasional far-off sounds of helicopter blades.

"Zoloft" joins an odd subset of dimly lit songs that co-opt the lounge or the nightclub, replacing good vibes with bad, ups with downs, and optimism with antipathy. Pulp made a whole album of songs like this, with This Is Hardcore - particularly in the squelching horns of the gut-punch title track - and That Handsome Devil act as bombastic hosts through life's unsettling hall of mirrors. Olympia artist Déjà Blue slips nicely into this framework with his EP of experimental dance, DARK SOUR. It's fitting that the relentlessly catchy opener is titled "NUBIVAGANT," an obsolete adjective that means "moving through clouds." DARK SOUR feels like nothing so much as a club act drifting through a molasses-thick haze.

Built on a persistent, growing, skeletal beat, "NUBIVAGANT" serves as a fine introduction to Déjà Blue's modus operandi. Déjà Blue is the work of Liam Hindahl, a musician who plays with a number of Olympia acts, including Oh, Rose and Camp Wisdom. While those bands explore driving indie rock and fearsome folk-rock, respectively, Déjà Blue strays from those boisterous sounds to find home in a queasier, more paranoid realm. Even when a song slows to a trudge, hip-deep in sonic sludge, Hindahl's roots as a drummer ensure that the listener continues to be hypnotically drawn in.

Sometimes, as on "BACTERIA," with its dub-ish bass, chiming guitars, and reverberating synths, Déjà Blue recalls Pink Floyd. Other songs, like "DROP," sound more like In Rainbows-era Radiohead, all chilly beats and otherworldly vocals. "LONNY ZONE" ends up coming across as the strangest song on the album, if only for how it errs toward the most mainstream sound. Covering up his voice in abstracting effects and assembling the crispest beat on the EP, Hindahl has created a song that wouldn't sound out of place on a release from Frank Ocean or the Weeknd. The pall that covers the album is dissipated a little on final track "NECTAR SAFARI," recalling Cut Copy's bright, ‘80s-aping melodies.

Writing about music on a weekly basis, as I have done for many years, you occasionally encounter a band or album that legitimately gets you excited: excited for the music scene in general, excited to find a band that tickles the best parts of your brain, excited to see where an artist is heading. DARK SOUR does that for me. It may be a coincidence that the album sometimes reminds me of early Mac DeMarco - who recorded his own take on this narcotic subgenre with Rock and Roll Night Club - but it's not a stretch to suspect that Déjà Blue may soon find its own DeMarco-level following, if this most recent offering is anything to go by.

Only time will tell, but what I know for sure if that DARK SOUR is a step forward for Hindahl. If his work with bands like Oh, Rose and Camp Wisdom, among others, wasn't enough of an indication, this should clue everyone in to yet another phenomenal talent emerging in Olympia.

Deja Blue, w/ Jo Passed, Duzz, 7 p.m., Saturday, October 15, $5, The Dugout, 1015 10th Ave SE #B, Olympia, 510.299.2275