When you’re resolutely DIY and as prolific as a band like Deerhoof, eventually there’s nowhere to turn but the actual studio. Their first entirely recorded in a studio, and their first recorded in vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki’s native Japanese, shows the three-piece are still able to turn left in a career defined by left turns. That Miracle-Level is the band’s 19th in their 28 years and still innovative in theory is no mean feat – and there’s just enough intention to keep them sounding fresh.
The band funnel far-flung influences (they specifically cite Rosalía, Meridian Brothers and Mozart opera) into something more obviously them: needlepoint riffs, shifting time signatures and catchy vocal melodies. Sequestering lyrics from an English-speaking audience brings such quirks into clearer focus, levelling each instrument, with the tanged guitars and shuffling drums locking into kaleidoscopic patterns on ‘My Lovely Cat!’.
Despite the studio setting, it’s hard not to hear some songs as undercooked GarageBand demos. ‘The Poignant Melody’ is an accurate title, ‘Everybody, Marvel’ less so. The former is a pretty instrumental but not necessarily one that benefitted from a more sophisticated set-up, the latter eschews overdubs for an uncomfortable mix of wobbly vocals and discordant guitars. ‘Miracle-Level’, ‘Wedding, March, Flower’ and ‘The Little Maker’ reassuringly see the band charmingly slip into lower gears, quieter moments that give their wonky idiosyncrasies the space to breathe.
Ultimately avoiding repetition, Miracle-Level brings big-picture innovation, which just about filters down into the songs’ smaller details. It’s another album of Deerhoof doing what they do well.