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One Song: Daniel Bejar's Destroyer finds a different angle on Kara Walker's words

January 25, 2011 |  5:27 am

Daniel Bejar forces listeners to hear Kara Walker's words from a different angle on ‘Suicide Demo for Kara Walker.'

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Appropriation -- the act of making something your own by copying it -- has been a hot topic in the art world at least since Andy Warhol first closely examined the can that contained his lunch. It's become increasingly relevant in popular music circles too, leading to big questions about intellectual property and the nature of originality.

“Suicide Demo for Kara Walker” employs appropriation in fascinating ways. It's on “Kaputt,” the new album from Vancouver-based bard Daniel Bejar's semi-solo project, Destroyer. “Kaputt” rethinks Destroyer's noisy, rococo indie rock within the startling context of New Romantic smooth jazz, in the process changing the meaning of clichés like “mellow” and “art rock.”

All the songs on “Kaputt” pose this challenge, but “Suicide Demo” goes furthest by featuring lyrics Bejar cut up from text-filled cue cards sent to him by the fine artist Kara Walker. Walker herself is an appropriation genius, known for work that fearlessly interrogates the deep history of African American and female oppression through refashioned imagery. Singing loaded phrases like “Seen you consorting with your Invisible Manhole” or “Don't talk about the South, she said,” in his quavery Canadian tenor, Bejar doesn't become Walker but forces the listener to hear her words in a different voice, from a different angle. Disturbing and illuminating, “Suicide Demo” leads us somewhere new.

-- Ann Powers

Photo: Daniel Bejar. Credit: Merge Records

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