Dan Deacon doesn't give himself an easy task: to re-create on a studio recording the infectious energy of his notoriously crazy live shows. The Baltimore-based electronics whiz may never be able to capture that rumpus completely, but his first readily available album, "Spiderman of the Rings," certainly showcases his blend of playfulness and sophistication, from its cheeky title to the songs themselves.
On opener "Woody Woodpecker," grating cartoon cackles begin in the forefront of Deacon's soundscape but slyly fade into a cacophonous drone that sets a foundation for his chaos of layered sounds. The sprawling, nearly 12-minute "Wham City" (named for a Baltimore artist collective) shifts between childlike, nonsensical singalongs ("Everyone plays drums and sings/About big sharks, sharp swords, beast bees, bead lords") and Deacon's pulsing shimmer of keyboards, electronica and stuttering beats. Although a few tracks -- such as "The Crystal Cat," which features a monotone chant juxtaposed with shrill, squeaking vocals -- might be more convincing in a rock club, Deacon's "Spiderman" still manages to capture the spontaneity and liveliness of his performances.
Laptop artist Joe Williams (a.k.a. White Williams) presents a more restrained electronic sound on his debut, "Smoke." Despite his bouncy bleeps, his breathy vocals turn "I Want Candy" into a lounge song dripping with seduction. That dichotomy is what makes him so captivating: Even as he sounds nearly uninterested on "New Violence," the song's almost spastic effects infuse it with an eerie energy.
-- Catherine P. Lewis