It’s possible Dan Bejar got tired of being so damn weird. It’s also possible he caught one of those soft-rock infomercials at 2 a.m. and decided it was time for a change. Whatever the reason, Kaputt, his ninth full-length under the Destroyer moniker, actually approaches a modest, ambient accessibility.
Maybe that’s a bit generous. Kaputt is still mysterious and quirky, a love-it-or-hate-it album riding a divisive wave of intellectualism that unfolds its charms through multiple listens. But where much of his back catalog has seemed designed to alienate—confrontational in its shifting soundscapes and relentless glam-rock intensity, making the finish line of even the most beautiful track exhausting to reach—Kaputt is economical and smooth, relegating the weirdness to the fringes. Bejar’s lyrics are still fascinatingly impenetrable, mixing long-winded, abstract imagery (“Twenty-one gun salute to the fallen birds of the sky”) with straightforward conversational fragments (“I heard your record/It’s all right”).
Kaputt’s chilly surfaces might come as a disappointment for fans of Bejar’s more schizophrenic side. This is most definitely a chill-out album, destined for late-night headphone listening or as a mood-setter for hip, upscale parties.But make no mistake—this stuff is too dense and instrumentally rich to be elevator music. “Blue Eyes” is almost danceable, utilizing disco guitars, wailing sax and trumpet, and a handclap-supported beat; “Savage Night at the Opera” is quietly funky and atmospheric, a dizzying variety of instruments swimming in a milky sea of reverb. A telling sign of this album’s ambient stranglehold: When a noisy electric guitar solo makes an appearance at the end of “Savage Night,” it’s jarring—and totally thrilling.