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Have We Met, as Dan Bejar puts it, ‘came together in such a crazy way – all equal parts ecstasy and terror’. Initially conceived (but quickly ditched) as a Y2K album, Bejar was without a clear concept in mind. So he said “fuck it” and let it all rip while brainstorming at home. Culled from years’ worth of saved writing, set aside for projects “beyond music,” and recorded at his kitchen table, Have We Met harkens back to Kaputt-era Dan stringing together lyrics off hand while lounging on his couch. The resulting vocal sound exists in the sweet spot between two Destroyer worlds colliding: hints of the past, more strident Destroyer mixed in with a relaxed, new-aged Crooning one.
No re-recording. No cleaning up. Frequent collaborator John Collins was tasked with the role of layering synth and rhythm sections over a stream-of-consciousness Bejar, as Nic Bragg added ‘completely unexpected and somehow comforting’ three-dimensional, shredding guitar. The Destroyer band-orientated approach was shelved; “The record could have gone on and on, and the mixes kept evolving up until about a day before we sent them off to be mastered, which was also 48 hours before John and his wife went to the birthing centre, where their first child was born; our true deadline!” says Bejar.
Opener ‘Crimson Tide’ is a six-minute journey that takes its rightful place among other Destroyer epics. It welcomes with a sparse rhythm until percolating synths and propulsive bass build and make it all a reality with unsustainable imagery — oceans stuck inside hospital corridors and insane funerals. It’s the sound of a somewhat eccentric and unorthodox recording process laid out and built up by three musicians exploring the depth to which they can take an idea.
On “The Television Music Supervisor,” trickling keys, glitches, and “clickity click clicks” (a variation on the standard Bejar “la da das”) focuses on how those who dictate our relationships with music and media are susceptible to error, a most 21st century concern. Perhaps the most audacious Destroyer track yet, “Cue Synthesizer” steps back to address the rote and often-detached mechanics of music. Up next, the waltzy and woozy centerpiece “University Hill” drifts even further and applies that logic more broadly, insisting “the game is rigged in every direction” and “you’re made of string.”
Thirteen albums in, Have We Met manages to meet somewhere between trademarks and new territory – atmospheric approximations of feeling and place, wry gut-punches of one liners, and the deluge of energy meets a thematic catharsis of modern dread, delivered with an effortless, entrancing directness. But, no need to expound any further. He’s got it all spelled out for you in the music.