Destroyer: Labyrinthitis – Dan Bejar retains his humour in dark times

An eclectic album from an artist long past trying to impress anybody

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Artist: Destroyer
Genre: Alternative
Label: Bella Union

The last time we heard an album from Destroyer it was January 2020, when whispers of coronavirus were just making their way to the West. That record was another collaboration with John Collins, who has returned to produce Labyrinthitis, 10 tracks written and recorded in response to the social disorientation of the pandemic.

Labyrinthitis employs a similar stream-of-consciousness lyrical style to Have We Met, with Dan Bejar’s rich and often bizarre lyrics warped and morphed by Collins’s hand. Take June, for example: Bejar spends most of the track doing a Bowie vocal impersonation – “a fucking idiot someone made in the sna-ow” – before a lengthy spoken word outro finds his vocals pitched and warped to dizzying effect.

Tintoretto, It’s For You sees Bejar play the part of death, knocking at the door of the Venetian school artist, over discordant piano keys and an ominously heavy synth. Bejar suspects that he suffers from labyrinthitis himself (though he can’t get an official diagnosis), an inner-ear inflammation that can cause vertigo and hearing loss, similar to tinnitus; it’s no wonder, then, that we find him so obsessed with repetition, ringing bells in the distance, confusing sounds just out of reach.

Bejar isn’t one to lose his sense of humour in all this darkness (The Last Song’s “that is too many words … to say” line gave me a chuckle). Labyrinthitis is an eclectic album from an artist long past trying to impress anybody but his producer, which pays off here more often than not.

Andrea Cleary

Andrea Cleary is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture